Tracking the transition from sub-lexical to lexical processing: On the creation of orthographic and phonological lexical representations
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Tracking the transition from sublexical to lexical processing: On the creation of orthographic and phonological lexical representations
Erin A. Maloney, Evan F. Risko, Shannon O’Malley, and Derek Besner
Journal and DOI:
Journal: Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 62(5):858-67
What do we know?
A lexicon is like a mental dictionary that stores all the words we know. It is a critical component for models of visual word recognition and reading aloud.
Orthographic lexicon: A storage system in the brain consisting of word spellings.
Phonological lexicon: A storage system in the brain consisting of word sounds.
The letter length effect is the phenomenon whereby the amount of time that it takes someone to start pronouncing a monosyllabic letter string that they haven’t read before is related to the number of letters in that string, such that more letters mean it takes longer to begin pronouncing.
The speed with which people start to read monosyllabic letter strings with which they are very familiar does not vary based on how many letters are in the string. Researchers believe that the absence of a letter length effect provides evidence that the letter string is stored as a word in the lexicon.
What did we ask?
How many times do you need to read a letter string aloud before it gets stored in the lexicon?
What did we do and find?
After only 4 repetitions of reading aloud, the letter strings no longer showed a letter length effect.
However, 4 repetitions of deciding whether the same letter strings were written in UPPERCASE or lowercase did not eliminate the letter length effect in a second group of participants.
Why is this important?
Our study provides evidence that repeated reading aloud of previously unknown letter strings is sufficient to gain entry into the mental lexicon, but that merely processing the letter string in a shallow manner (i.e., case decision) is not sufficient.
Brought to you by Dr. Erin Maloney’s Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of Ottawa.