Reaction Time Methodologies and Lexical Access in Applied Linguistics
John P. Racine
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The first issue of this journal featured a paper by Iso (2012) in which the author described research conducted to validate his Lexical Access Time Test (LEXATT2). While the details of the test procedure are scant in the write-up, it appears that there are a number of methodological issues that require thorough examination before this test can be considered a valid measure of lexical access. Notable among these issues are the accuracy of the reaction time (RT) measurements and the manner in which the reaction times are interpreted. Other aspects of the study including its relation to prior research and theory also deserve scrutiny.
As pointed out by Mochizuki (2012) in a discussion of four vocabulary test studies which included Iso’s, very few researchers in applied linguistics are conducting research on lexical access. Indeed, lexical research involving RT measurement of any kind is particularly rare in our field, despite the abundance of such studies in cognitive psychology and psycholinguistics circles. The comments below are thus not intended as criticism of Iso’s paper in particular. Rather, this commentary is intended to highlight some of the general principles central to cognitive approaches to the mental lexicon, particularly where reaction time is to be measured. It is hoped that the issues raised below will serve as an introduction to some key elements of this kind of research, and encourage lexical researchers who wish to undertake further studies in this area.
Racine, J.P. (2013). Reaction time methodologies and lexical access in applied linguistics. Vocabulary Learning and Instruction. Advance online publication. doi:10.7820/vli.v03.1.racine