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Does Bold Emphasis Facilitate the Process of Visual-Word Recognition?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 February 2014

María Macaya
Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Manuel Perea*
Universitat de València (Spain)
*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Manuel Perea. Departamento de Metodología. Av. Blasco Ibáñez, 21. 46010.Valencia (Spain). FAX: +34-963864697. Email:


The study of the effects of typographical factors on lexical access has been rather neglected in the literature on visual-word recognition. Indeed, current computational models of visual-word recognition employ an unrefined letter feature level in their coding schemes. In a letter recognition experiment, Pelli, Burns, Farell, and Moore-Page (2006), letters in Bookman boldface produced more efficiency (i.e., a higher ratio of thresholds of an ideal observer versus a human observer) than the letters in Bookman regular under visual noise. Here we examined whether the effect of bold emphasis can be generalized to a common visual-word recognition task (lexical decision: “is the item a word?”) under standard viewing conditions. Each stimulus was presented either with or without bold emphasis (e.g., actor vs. actor). To help determine the locus of the effect of bold emphasis, word-frequency (low vs. high) was also manipulated. Results revealed that responses to words in boldface were faster than the responses to the words without emphasis –this advantage was restricted to low-frequency words. Thus, typographical features play a non-negligible role during visual-word recognition and, hence, the letter feature level of current models of visual-word recognition should be amended.

Research Article
Copyright © Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos de Madrid 2014 

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