Semantic repetition blindness and associative facilitation in the identification of stimuli in rapid serial visual presentation

  • Manuel S. SeetEmail author
  • Sally Andrews
  • Irina M. Harris


Repetition blindness (RB) is the inability to detect both instances of a repeated stimulus during rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP). Prior work has demonstrated RB for semantically related critical items presented as pictures, but not for word stimuli. It is not known whether the type of semantic relationship between critical items (i.e., conceptual similarity or lexical association) determines the manifestation of semantically mediated RB, or how this is affected by the format of the stimuli. These questions provided the motivation for the present study. Participants reported items presented in picture or word RSVP streams in which critical items were either low-associate category coordinates (horse–camel), high-associate noncoordinates (horse–saddle), or unrelated word pairs (horse–umbrella). Report accuracy was reduced for category coordinate critical items only when they were presented in pictorial form; accuracy for coordinate word pairs did not differ from that of their unrelated counterparts. Associated critical items were reported more accurately than unrelated critical items in both the picture and word versions of the task. We suggest that semantic RB for pictorial stimuli results from intracategory interference in the visuosemantic space; words do not reliably suffer from semantic RB because they do not necessitate semantic mediation to be reported successfully. Conversely, the associative facilitation observed in both picture and word versions of the task reflects the spread of activation between the representations of associates in the lexical network.


Repetition blindness Rapid serial visual presentation Associative facilitation 



Irina M. Harris was supported in part by a Future Fellowship (FT0992123) from the Australian Research Council.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

M.S. Seet declares that he/she has no conflict of interest. S. Andrews declares that he/she has no conflict of interest. I.M. Harris declares that he/she has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel S. Seet
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sally Andrews
    • 1
  • Irina M. Harris
    • 1
  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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