Time course of retrieving conceptual information: A speed-accuracy trade-off study

Brian McElree, Gregory L. Murphy, Tamara Ochoa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Words carry considerable information, but much of that information is not relevant in context. Research has shown that readers selectively activate and remember relevant information associated with words in different contexts, but it is not known when in processing this selection occurs. This experiment investigated whether context can change which properties are initially retrieved, using a speed-accuracy trade-off paradigm. Readers had to verify a property of a modifier-noun phrase (e.g., in the sentence Boiled celery is soft) within a specified interval, from 300-3,000 msec after presentation. Results revealed that properties associated with the noun alone were activated sooner than were properties that required integration of the modifier with the noun. Thus, context did not serve to influence the initial retrieval of properties but only to activate or suppress properties later in processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-853
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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