The unbearable lightness of priming

Document Type

Journal Article


Elsevier Science


Faculty of Computing, Health and Science


School of Psychology




This article was originally published as: Speelman, C. P., Simpson, T. A., & Kirsner, K. (2002). The unbearable lightness of priming. Acta Psychologica, 111(2), 191-204. Original article available here


Repetition priming from text to isolated words has been difficult to observe. One explanation for this difficulty is that previous attempts to observe this type of priming have utilised conditions that normally reduce priming. Two experiments were conducted to evaluate this hypothesis. Experiment 1 involved participants being presented with words in isolation and in text passages. The words were then presented again in a lexical decision test. Results indicated that priming occurred as a result of exposure to both isolated words and words in text, although priming was greater in the word–word condition. Experiment 2 investigated whether priming occurred in a lexical decision test on words that had been read prior to the test in Milan Kundera's novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being.” There was some evidence that participants who had read the book recently were faster at lexical decision to words from the book than participants who had not read the book. The two experiments therefore indicate that priming can occur from text to isolated words, although it is smaller in magnitude to that observed from word to word. Reasons for this difference, as suggested by Kirsner and Speelman (J. Exp. Psychol.: Learn. Mem. Cogn. 22 (1996) 563) model of repetition priming, are discussed.




Link to publisher version (DOI)