Effects of non-native word shapes in the recognition and recall of medicine names

Carla Pires, Susana Correia, Márcia Costa, Afonso Cavaco, Marina Vigário

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mistakes involving medicine brand names may lead to serious medication errors and even patients’ death. We tested the effect of medicine brand names shape – native vs. non-native spelling – in two groups of Portuguese speaking subjects: (i) pharmacy clients (older and less educated); (ii) graduate students (younger and more educated). We run a recognition task and an immediate recall task, testing three groups of names with: (1) non-native graphemes, (2) non-native grapho-/phonotactics, (3) native patterns. Results showed that names with non-native properties, especially nonnative graphemes, were recalled significantly worse. Non-native patterns had a null effect in the recognition task, possibly due to a facilitating effect of the odd, non-native feature, compensating for the extra demand imposed by non-native patterns on processing. Less educated, older participants consistently performed significantly worse than more educated, younger subjects across experiments. The results suggest the pertinence of adapting medicine names to the language of target users.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-129
Number of pages35
JournalWritten Language and Literacy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2019


  • Age and education
  • Drug names
  • Medicine names
  • Non-native spelling
  • Word recall
  • Word recognition


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