Morrison, Catriona M.; Ellis, Andrew W.; Quinlan, Philip T.
Age of acquisition, not word frequency, affects object naming, not object recognition
Memory & Cognition
20. 6 (Nov, 1992): 705 (10 pages).


Author Abstract

Word frequency is widely believed to affect object naming speed, despite several studies in which it has been reported that frequency effects may be redundant upon age of acquisition. We report, first, a reanalysis of data from the study by Oldfield and Wingfield (1965), which is standardly cited as evidence for a word frequency effect in object naming; then we report two new experiments. The reanalysis of Oldfield and Wingfield shows that age of acquisition is the major determinant of naming speed, and that frequency plays no independent role when its correlation with other variables is taken into account. In Experiment 1, age of acquisition and phoneme length proved to be the primary determinants of object naming speed. Frequency, prototypicality, and imageability had no independent effect. In Experiment 2, subjects classified objects into two semantic categories (natural or man-made). Prototypicality and semantic category were the only variables to have a significant effect on reaction time, with no effect of age of acquisition, frequency, imageability, or word length.

We conclude that age of acquisition, not word frequency, affects the retrieval and/or execution of object names, not the process of object recognition. The locus of this effect is discussed, along with the possibility that words learned in early childhood may be more resistant to the effects of brain injury in at least some adult aphasics than words learned somewhat later.



Maintained by Francis F. Steen, Communication Studies, University of California Los Angeles