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We compared action (pour or twist?) and contextual/semantic (found in kitchen?) decisions made to pictures of objects, nonobjects, and words. Although there was no advantage for objects over words in contextual/semantic decisions, there was an advantage for objects over words and nonobjects in action decisions. For objects, both action and contextual/semantic decisions were faster than naming; for words, the opposite occurred. These results extend the early results of Potter and Faulconer (1975) that there is privileged access to semantic memory for objects relative to that for words and privileged access to phonology for words. Our data suggest that, for objects, there is privileged access to action knowledge rather than to all forms of semantic knowledge and that this is contingent on learned associations between objects and actions.

Original publication




Journal article


Psychon Bull Rev

Publication Date





348 - 355


Association Learning, Attention, Decision Making, Humans, Mental Recall, Pattern Recognition, Visual, Psycholinguistics, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Reading, Semantics, Verbal Learning