Length effects in word perception: We is better than I but worse than you or them

Arthur G. Samuel, Jan P. Van Santen, James C. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


D. D. Wheeler's (1970) finding that the words I and A do not have the same advantage as other words, despite their lexical status, was replicated in 3 experiments (54 high school Ss). This result held even under conditions designed to influence Ss to process I and A as words. The poor performance on these single-letter words was shown to be a manifestation of a more general length effect: Recognition of briefly presented words improves with increasing length (up to 3 or 4 letters). The perceptual advantage for longer words was not found for closely matched strings of unrelated letters. The strength and robustness of the word-length effect suggest that theories of the word advantage must include mechanisms that are length dependent. (20 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-105
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1982


  • processing of single letter words as words vs letters, high school students
  • word length &
  • words vs letters, word recognition &

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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