December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Is holistic word processing influenced by word meaning?
Author Affiliations
  • Treedom Beiyin Zhang
    New York University Abu Dhabi
  • Haiyang Jin
    New York University Abu Dhabi
  • Anna Erdi
    New York University Abu Dhabi
  • Olivia S. Cheung
    New York University Abu Dhabi
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 4248. doi:
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      Treedom Beiyin Zhang, Haiyang Jin, Anna Erdi, Olivia S. Cheung; Is holistic word processing influenced by word meaning?. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):4248.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Holistic processing, which reflects an obligatory processing of all components of a stimulus, is consistently observed in expert observers for various categories such as faces or words. Although holistic face processing appears to be influenced by higher-level processing including evaluation of emotions from expressive faces (Chen & Cheung, 2021), it remains unclear whether similar effects might be observed for words. Previous studies have shown that holistic word processing is influenced by lexical (e.g., real words vs. pseudowords) but not visual properties (e.g., fonts, Ventura et al., 2017). Here we extended such findings to examine whether holistic word processing is modulated by word meaning. Using pairs of 4-letter Hungarian words of either positive or negative meaning (e.g., ‘ízes’-tasty vs. ‘piás’-alcoholic/drunk) sequentially presented in a complete composite task, native Hungarian speakers (i.e., experts) and English monolinguals (i.e., novices), who likely perceived Hungarian words as pseudowords, were asked to match the first two letters of each word pair and ignore the last two letters. Across four experiments (N=40-50 for either experts or novices in each experiment), we manipulated stimulus durations, misalignment sizes, and either randomized or blocked the positive vs. negative trials. Generally, although both experts and novices showed significant congruency effects and an interaction between congruency and alignment, experts showed a larger congruency effect than novices, revealing the effect of expertise. More importantly, although the congruency effect was larger for negative than positive words, this result was surprisingly stronger for novices than experts. These results suggest that any systematic differences found for novices between the positive and negative words would likely be due to potential visual differences, as novices did not know the words. In contrast, experts were not influenced by either the visual or semantic differences between the word categories, suggesting that holistic word processing may be highly stable in experts.


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