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In 2 experiments, the authors explored age of acquisition (AoA) and word frequency (WF) effects in picture naming using the psychological refractory period paradigm. In Experiment 1, participants named a picture and then, a short time later, categorized 1 of 3 possible auditory tones as high, medium, or low. Both AoA (Experiment 1A) and WF (Experiment 1B) effects propagated onto tone discrimination reaction times (RTs), with the effects of AoA being stronger. In Experiment 2, the to-be-named picture followed the auditory tone by a varying interval. As the interval decreased, picture naming RTs increased. The relationship between the interval and AoA (Experiment 2A) was reliably underadditive; AoA effects were eliminated at the shortest interval. In contrast, WF (Experiment 2B) was additive with the effects of the interval. These results demonstrate an empirical dissociation between AoA and WF effects. AoA affects processing stages that precede those that are sensitive to WF. The implications for theories of picture naming are discussed.

Original publication




Journal article


J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn

Publication Date





282 - 301


Adolescent, Adult, Attention, Child, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Infant, Language Development, Male, Mental Recall, Neural Networks (Computer), Pattern Recognition, Visual, Phonetics, Pitch Discrimination, Reaction Time, Refractory Period, Psychological, Semantics, Verbal Behavior, Verbal Learning