The cumulative semantic cost describes a phenomenon in which picture naming latencies increase monotonically with each additional within-category item that is named in a sequence of pictures. Here we test whether the cumulative semantic cost requires the assumption of lexical selection by competition. In Experiment 1 participants named a sequence of pictures, while in Experiment 2 participants named words instead of pictures, preceded by a gender marked determiner. We replicate the basic cumulative semantic cost with pictures (Exp. 1) and show that there is no cumulative semantic cost for word targets (Exp. 2). This pattern was replicated in Experiment 3 in which pictures and words were named along with their gender marked definite determiner, and were intermingled within the same experimental design. In addition, Experiment 3 showed that while picture naming induces a cumulative semantic cost for subsequently named words, word naming does not induce a cumulative semantic cost for subsequently named pictures. These findings suggest that the cumulative semantic cost arises prior to lexical selection and that the effect arises due to incremental changes to the connection weights between semantic and lexical representations.
Keywords: Cumulative semantic cost, Semantic interference, Lexical access, Picture naming, Semantic access