Age of acquisition not word frequency affects object recognition: Evidence from the effects of visual degradation

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Four experiments examined how age of acquisition (AoA) and word frequency (WF) interact with manipulations of image quality in a picture-naming task. Experiments 1 and 2 examined the effect of overlaying the to-be-named picture with irrelevant contours. The magnitude of the AoA effect increased when the contours were added (Experiment 1), but the effect of WF remained constant (Experiment 2). Experiments 3 and 4 examined the effects of reducing the contrast of the contours defining the to-be-named picture. Both the effects of AoA (Experiment 3) and WF (Experiment 4) remained constant in the face of contrast reduction. These results provide an empirical dissociation of the effects of AoA and WF. The results are consistent with the idea that both AoA and the addition of irrelevant contours affect the efficiency of object recognition, but WF affects later processes involved in retrieval of object names. The theoretical implications of these findings in relation to accounts of AoA and frequency and their functional localisation in the lexical system are discussed.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)130-137
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • contrast, pattern masking, age of acquisition, picture naming, frequency