The sentence superiority effect revisited

Cognition. 2017 Nov;168:217-221. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.07.003. Epub 2017 Jul 14.


A sentence superiority effect was investigated using post-cued word-in-sequence identification with the rapid parallel visual presentation (RPVP) of four horizontally aligned words. The four words were presented for 200ms followed by a post-mask and cue for partial report. They could form a grammatically correct sentence or were formed of the same words in a scrambled agrammatical sequence. Word identification was higher in the syntactically correct sequences, and crucially, this sentence superiority effect did not vary as a function of the target's position in the sequence. Cloze probability measures for words at the final, arguably most predictable position, revealed overall low values that did not interact with the effects of sentence context, suggesting that these effects were not driven by word predictability. The results point to a level of parallel processing across multiple words that enables rapid extraction of their syntactic categories. These generate a sentence-level representation that constrains the recognition process for individual words, thus facilitating parallel word processing when the sequence is grammatically sound.

Keywords: Parallel word processing; Rapid Parallel Visual Presentation (RPVP); Sentence superiority effect; Syntactic representations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Reading*
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Semantics
  • Young Adult