College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 7-13-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Pablo Gomez, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Allbritton, Ph.D.


Two studies examined the effects of word (study 1) and nonword (study 2) primes in word recognition, utilizing a masked priming procedure (Forster & Davis, 1984). The primary objective of both studies was to replicate the results obtained by Davis and Lupker (2006)—that is, inhibition from related word primes and facilitation for nonword primes—using a common dependent measure, reaction time, and a measure not yet utilized in the word recognition literature—pupil dilation. Study 1 found nominal evidence corroborating the inhibitory nature of word primes. In the RTs analysis, only word frequency effects arose. Further, pupil dilation analysis did not show mean differences across conditions. Study 2, utilizing nonword primes, elicited clearer results. High frequency nonword prime-low frequency targets produced stronger facilitatory effects in RTs. Interestingly, pupil dilation showed, for the first time, sensitivity to relatedness in the masked priming procedure. Related nonword primes produced smaller mean pupil sizes than unrelated nonword primes. Future research, ameliorating upon the deficiencies in Davis and Lupker (e.g., unbalanced list of word and nonword targets), and replicating their study with nonword and word primes within the same trial block, might produce the expected behavioral and physiological results. Lastly, utilization of a new analysis technique might prove fruitful.

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