Direct Assessments of the Processing Time Hypothesis for the Missing-Letter Effect.
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When participants search for a target letter while reading, they make more omissions if the target letter is embedded in frequently used words or in the most frequent meaning of a polysemic word. According to the processing time hypothesis, this occurs because familiar words and meanings are identified faster, leaving less time for letter identification. Contrary to the predictions of the processing time hypothesis, with a rapid serial visual presentation procedure, participants were slower at detecting target letters for more frequent words or the most frequent meaning of a word (Experiments 1 and 2) or at detecting the word itself instead of a target letter (Experiment 3). In Experiments 4 and 5, participants self-initiated the presentation of each word, and the same pattern of results was observed as in Experiments 1 and 3. Positive correlations were also found between omission rate and response latencies.
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