Spoken word processing creates a lexical bottleneck

Alexandra A. Cleland, Jakke Tamminen, Philip T. Quinlan, M. Gareth Gaskell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


We report three experiments that examined whether presentation of a spoken word creates an attentional bottleneck associated with lexical processing in the absence of a response to that word. A spoken word and a visual stimulus were presented in quick succession, but only the visual stimulus demanded a response. Response times to the visual stimulus increased as the lag between it and the spoken word decreased, suggesting a bottleneck in processing. This effect was modulated by the uniqueness point of the spoken word; bottleneck effects were strongest when the spoken word had a late uniqueness point (Experiment 1). The effect was also modulated by the nature of the second task, with the effect stronger when the visual stimulus was a word rather than a shape (Experiment 2) or face (Experiment 3). Word processing appears to create a transient lexical bottleneck that is driven by the magnitude of lexical activity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)572-593
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage and Cognitive Processes
Issue number4
Early online date3 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • spoken word processing
  • attention
  • uniqueness point


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