Word length effects in picture naming: The role of a response criterion

Antje Meyer, A Roelofs, WJM Levelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

124 Citations (Scopus)


According to Levelt, Roelofs, and Meyer (1999) speakers generate the phonological and phonetic representations of successive syllables of a word in sequence and only begin to speak after having fully planned at least one complete phonological word. Therefore, speech onset latencies should be longer for long than for short words. We tested this prediction in four experiments in which Dutch participants named or categorized objects with monosyllabic or disyllabic names. Experiment I yielded a length effect on production latencies when objects with long and short names were tested in separate blocks, but not when they were mixed. Experiment 2 showed that the length effect was not due to a difference in the ease of object recognition. Experiment 3 replicated the results of Experiment I using a within-participants design. In Experiment 4, the long and short target words appeared in a phrasal context. In addition to the speech onset latencies, we obtained the viewing times for the target objects, which have been shown to depend on the time necessary to plan the form of the target names. We found word length effects for both dependent variables, but only when objects with short and long names were presented in separate blocks. We argue that in pure and mixed blocks speakers used different response deadlines, which they tried to meet by either generating the motor programs for one syllable or for all syllables of the word before speech onset. Computer simulations using WEAVER++ support this view. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-147
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


  • phonological encoding
  • word length effects
  • response criterion
  • language production
  • eye tracking


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