Kenneth Forster

Professor Emeritus, Departments of Psychology & Linguistics

My interests are centered on the structure of the human language processor, and the mechanisms by which we code and store linguistic expressions. The central question here is whether the language processor can be subdivided into distinct, autonomous levels of processing corresponding to lexical, syntactic and semantic processing, or whether in practice these levels are so intermixed that there is no real division possible. Typical research questions here include studies of sentence context effects on word perception, and the effects of semantic plausibility on sentence processing generally.

Another central interest is the study of visual word recognition, and the nature of the information retrieval mechanisms that enable effortless but accurate retrieval of the properties of words at such rapid rates. Do these mechanisms use an associative memory, as proposed in neural network approaches, or is there some kind of serial scanning mechanism that searches rapidly through the words in our mental lexicon? Much of our work here concerns the phenomenon of masked priming, where orthographically related words prime each other, even when the subject is totally unaware of the nature of the prime.