Interference in letter identification: A test of feature-specific inhibition

Jeffrey L. Santee, Howard E. Egeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of perceptual interference in letter identification was investigated in three experiments designed to test the feature-specific inhibition model proposed by Bjork and Murray (1977). According to their extension of Estes' (1972, 1974) interactive channels model, input channels leading to the same feature detector inhibit one another more than do channels leading to different detectors. The model therefore predicts perceptual interference between two letters to be a function of the degree of their feature overlap. Experiment 1 confirmed the feature-specific inhibition model and Bjork and Murray's finding that the accuracy of report is lower when a briefly presented target letter is flanked by an identical letter than when flanked by another target letter or by a nontarget letter. Results from Experiment 2 indicated that single-target performance is a function of the degree of feature similarity between the target letter and background characters in a stimulus display. Experiment 3 ruled out a spatial-uncertainty explanation of feature-specific inhibition in a new paradigm that does not require subjects to process a poststimulus cue. The results of these experiments are discussed in relation to recent studies exhibiting strong effects of noise letters at the response stage of processing. It is suggested that discrepancies between feature-specific interference and response-interference studies may be a function of the particular mode of stimulus presentation and of the dependent measures that are used.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 1980

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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