Attentional and Automatic Context Effects in Reading
The conscious-attention mechanism is slow acting, utilizes attentional capacity, and inhibits the retrieval of information from unexpected locations because the limited-capacity processor must be "shifted" to a location some distance away in the memory network so that information can be read out. The automatic activation process occurs because when stimulus information activates a memory location, some of the activation automatically spreads to semantically related memory locations that are nearby in the network. Thus, the automatic activation process quickly results in a contextual facilitation effect but does not cause an inhibitory effect when a word is incongruous with its preceding context. Several studies from an ongoing research program on sentence context effects were presented. The initial developmental results appeared to be rather parsimoniously explained by the two-process theory of expectancy of Posner and Snyder. When word recognition is slow, another higher-level expectancy process has time to operate and thus provides additional facilitation due to contextual information.