Abstract social categories facilitate access to socially skewed words

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Recent work has shown that listeners process words faster if said by a member of the group that typically uses the word. This paper further explores how the social distributions of words affect lexical access by exploring whether access is facilitated by invoking more abstract social categories. We conduct four experiments, all of which combine an Implicit Association Task with a Lexical Decision Task. Participants sorted real and nonsense words while at the same time sorting older and younger faces (exp. 1), male and female faces (exp. 2), stereo-typically male and female objects (exp. 3), and framed and unframed objects, which were always stereotypically male or female (exp. 4). Across the experiments, lexical decision to socially skewed words is facilitated when the socially congruent category is sorted with the same hand. This suggests that the lexicon contains social detail from which individuals make social abstractions that can influence lexical access.