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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Accessibility factors that lead to good-enough language production


Accessibility plays a major role in speech production. Here we investigate and measure four factors that influence speakers to produce one word over another more optimal word form. Three experiments asked participants to label images of insects and instruments. Participants were incentivized to produce an accurate specific label (e.g., bee), over a more general label (e.g., insect), so that specific labels were more optimal. Each of three experiments manipulated a different factor that could influence accessibility – word frequency, priming, and interference – and all experiments additionally varied whether labels had to be produced under time pressure or not. Results showed that each variable significantly influenced the accessibility of labels: participants produced more specific labels when those labels were higher frequency, when they were primed, when a visually-similar label had not been primed, and when participants were unconstrained by time pressure. These findings demonstrate that multiple factors influence the accessibility of familiar words during production, regularly leading participants to rely on “good-enough” rather than optimal options to convey their message.

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