The aim of this research was to investigate whether the pictures of objects activate the phonology of the object’s name, even when naming is not a requirement of the experimental task. A series of nine visual search experiments or variations thereof was conducted to gain further insight into this issue. Participants were asked to indicate whether a previously seen target object was present or absent in a four-object search display. On half of the trials, one of the objects in the display held a relation to the target object. The presence of semantically related competitors interfered with search latencies, establishing the sensitivity of the procedure, while the presence of competitors with phonologically begin-related names did not. Using object pairs with rhyming names to increase the overlap between target and competitor names led to a small interference effect, indicating that objects activated their phonological codes. In the following experiments, different features of the experimental procedure were manipulated. The results suggest that the appearance of the phonological effect might be contingent on a silent naming strategy employed by the participants, which might have been at least partially induced by familiarizing participants with the objects and their names prior to the experiment. Changing the task by making its successful completion contingent on attending to one side of the display demonstrated the importance of the voluntary allocation of attention on competitor processing. When at the task-relevant location, semantically related competitors led to interference, while no effect was observed when competitors were presented at the irrelevant location. No reliable effect was obtained for phonologically related competitors in this task, although a trend towards interference suggests that, occasionally, phonological activation might have been present when all the attention was likely being directed at the competitor. Finally, two control experiments confirmed the sensitivity of the experimental materials used here by showing a reliable phonological facilitation effect when competitor names were used as auditory distractors in a standard picture-word interference task.
The aim of this research was to investigate whether the pictures of objects activate the phonology of the object’s name, even when naming is not a requirement of the experimental task. A series of