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Letter-case information and the identification of brand names



A central tenet of most current models of visual-word recognition is that lexical units are activated on the basis of case-invariant abstract letter representations. Here, we examined this assumption by using a unique type of words: brand names. The rationale of the experiments is that brand names are archetypically printed either in lowercase (e.g., adidas) or uppercase (e.g., IKEA). This allows us to present the brand names in their standard or non-standard case configuration (e.g., adidas, IKEA vs. ADIDAS, ikea, respectively). We conducted two experiments with a brand-decision task (‘is it a brand name?’): a single-presentation experiment and a masked priming experiment. Results in the single-presentation experiment revealed faster identification times of brand names in their standard case configuration than in their non-standard case configuration (i.e., adidas faster than ADIDAS; IKEA faster than ikea). In the masked priming experiment, we found faster identification times of brand names when they were preceded by an identity prime that matched its standard case configuration than when it did not (i.e., faster response times to adidas-adidas than to ADIDAS-adidas). Taken together, the present findings strongly suggest that letter-case information forms part of a brand name's graphemic information, thus posing some limits to current models of visual-word recognition.