Numerous studies demonstrate that the production of words is delayed when speakers process in temporal proximity semantically related words. Yet the experimental settings underlying this effect are different from those under which we typically speak. This study demonstrates that semantic interference disappears, and can even turn into facilitation, when semantically related words are embedded in a meaningful communicative exchange. Experiment 1 and 3 (each N=32 university students) implemented a picture-word interference task in a game played between two participants: one named the distractor word and, after a stimulus-onset-asynchrony of -150ms or -650ms, the other named a semantically related or unrelated target picture. Semantic interference reappeared with identical experimental parameters in a single-person picture-word interference setting (Experiment 2, N=32). We conclude that the inhibitory context effects leading to semantic interference in single-subject settings are attenuated whereas facilitatory effects are enhanced in communicative settings.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience