The decoding of visually presented line segments into letters, and letters into words, is critical to fluent reading abilities. Here we investigate the temporal dynamics of visual orthographic processes, focusing specifically on right hemisphere contributions and interactions between the hemispheres involved in the implicit processing of visually presented words, consonants, false fonts, and symbolic strings. High-density EEG was recorded while participants detected infrequent, simple, perceptual targets (dot strings) embedded amongst a of character strings. Beginning at 130 ms, orthographic and non-orthographic stimuli were distinguished by a sequence of ERP effects over occipital recording sites. These early latency occipital effects were dominated by enhanced right-sided negative-polarity activation for non-orthographic stimuli that peaked at around 180 ms. This right-sided effect was followed by bilateral positive occipital activity for false-fonts, but not symbol strings. Moreover the size of components of this later positive occipital wave was inversely correlated with the right-sided ROcc180 wave, suggesting that subjects who had larger early right-sided activation for non-orthographic stimuli had less need for more extended bilateral (e.g., interhemispheric) processing of those stimuli shortly later. Additional early (130–150 ms) negative-polarity activity over left occipital cortex and longer-latency centrally distributed responses (>300 ms) were present, likely reflecting implicit activation of the previously reported ‘visual-word-form’ area and N400-related responses, respectively. Collectively, these results provide a close look at some relatively unexplored portions of the temporal flow of information processing in the brain related to the implicit processing of potentially linguistic information and provide valuable information about the interactions between hemispheres supporting visual orthographic processing.
word reading; ERPs; visual cortex; visual orthography
The perceptual matching (same-different judgment) paradigm was used to investigate precision in position coding for strings of letters, digits, and symbols. Reference and target stimuli were 6 characters long and could be identical or differ either by transposing two characters or substituting two characters. The distance separating the two characters was manipulated such that they could either be contiguous, separated by one intervening character, or separated by two intervening characters. Effects of type of character and distance were measured in terms of the difference between the transposition and substitution conditions (transposition cost). Error rates revealed that transposition costs were greater for letters than for digits, which in turn were greater than for symbols. Furthermore, letter stimuli showed a gradual decrease in transposition cost as the distance between the letters increased, whereas the only significant difference for digit and symbol stimuli arose between contiguous and non-contiguous changes, with no effect of distance on the non-contiguous changes. The results are taken as further evidence for letter-specific position coding mechanisms.
Recent research has shown that letter identity and letter position are not integral perceptual dimensions (e.g., jugde primes judge in word-recognition experiments). Most comprehensive computational models of visual word recognition (e.g., the interactive activation model, J. L. McClelland & D. E. Rumelhart, 1981, and its successors) assume that the position of each letter within a word is perfectly encoded. Thus, these models are unable to explain the presence of effects of letter transposition (trial-trail), letter migration (beard-bread), repeated letters (moose-mouse), or subset/superset effects (faulty-faculty). The authors extend R. Ratcliff's (1981) theory of order relations for encoding of letter positions and show that the model can successfully deal with these effects. The basic assumption is that letters in the visual stimulus have distributions over positions so that the representation of one letter will extend into adjacent letter positions. To test the model, the authors conducted a series of forced-choice perceptual identification experiments. The overlap model produced very good fits to the empirical data, and even a simplified 2-parameter model was capable of producing fits for 104 observed data points with a correlation coefficient of .91.
lexical process; letter position coding; word recognition; modeling; perceptual matching
We used fMRI to examine functional brain abnormalities of German-speaking dyslexics who suffer from slow effortful reading but not from a reading accuracy problem. Similar to acquired cases of letter-by-letter reading, the developmental cases exhibited an abnormal strong effect of length (i.e., number of letters) on response time for words and pseudowords.
Corresponding to lesions of left occipito-temporal (OT) regions in acquired cases, we found a dysfunction of this region in our developmental cases who failed to exhibit responsiveness of left OT regions to the length of words and pseudowords. This abnormality in the left OT cortex was accompanied by absent responsiveness to increased sublexical reading demands in phonological inferior frontal gyrus (IFG) regions. Interestingly, there was no abnormality in the left superior temporal cortex which—corresponding to the onological deficit explanation—is considered to be the prime locus of the reading difficulties of developmental dyslexia cases.
The present functional imaging results suggest that developmental dyslexia similar to acquired letter-by-letter reading is due to a primary dysfunction of left OT regions.
Most studies on spelling processes suppose that the activation of orthographic representations is over before we start to write. The goal of the present study was to provide evidence indicating that the orthographic representations activated during spelling production interact continuously with the motor processes during movement production. We manipulated gemination to assess the influence of the orthographic properties of words on the kinematic parameters of production. Native English-speaking participants wrote words containing double letters and control words on a digitizer [e.g., DISSIPATE (Geminate) and DISGRACE (Control)]. The word pairs shared the initial letters and differed on the presence of a doublet at the same position. The results revealed that latencies were shorter for Geminates than Controls, indicating that spelling processes were facilitated by the presence of a doublet in the word. Critically, the impact of letter doubling was also observed during production, with shorter letter durations (e.g., D, I, S) and intervals (DI, IS) for Geminates than Controls. Letter doubling therefore affected the whole process of word writing: from spelling recall to movement preparation and production. The spelling processes that were involved before movement initiation cascaded into processes that regulate movement execution. The activation spread onto peripheral processing until the production of the doublet was completely programmed (e.g., letter S).
double letters; handwriting; cascaded processing; spelling; central processing; peripheral processing
The graphemic representations that underlie spelling performance must encode not only the identities of the letters in a word, but also the positions of the letters. This study investigates how letter position information is represented. We present evidence from two dysgraphic individuals, CM and LSS, who perseverate letters when spelling: that is, letters from previous spelling responses intrude into subsequent responses. The perseverated letters appear more often than expected by chance in the same position in the previous and subsequent responses. We used these errors to address the question of how letter position is represented in spelling. In a series of analyses we determined how often the perseveration errors produced maintain position as defined by a number of alternative theories of letter position encoding proposed in the literature. The analyses provide strong evidence that the grapheme representations used in spelling encode letter position such that position is represented in a graded manner based on distance from both edges of the word.
letter position coding; dysgraphia; spelling; letter perseveration errors; orthographic processing
The present study sought to identify cognitive abilities that might distinguish Hong Kong Chinese adolescents with dyslexia and to assess how these abilities were associated with Chinese word reading, word dictation, and reading comprehension. The cognitive skills of interest were morphological awareness, visual-orthographic knowledge, rapid naming, and verbal working memory. A total of 90 junior secondary school students, 30 dyslexic, 30 chronological age controls, and 30 reading level controls was tested on a range of cognitive and literacy tasks. Dyslexic students were less competent than the control students in all cognitive and literacy measures. The regression analyses also showed that verbal working memory, rapid naming, morphological awareness, and visual-orthographic knowledge were significantly associated with literacy performance. Findings underscore the importance of these cognitive skills for Chinese literacy acquisition. Overall, this study highlights the persistent difficulties of Chinese dyslexic adolescents who seem to have multiple causes for reading and spelling difficulties.
Adolescence; Chinese language; Developmental dyslexia; Reading and spelling difficulties
The question of how the brain encodes letter position in written words has
attracted increasing attention in recent years. A number of models have
recently been proposed to accommodate the fact that transposed-letter
stimuli like jugde or caniso
are perceptually very close to their base words.
Here we examined how letter position coding is attained in the tactile
modality via Braille reading. The idea is that Braille word recognition may
provide more serial processing than the visual modality, and this may
produce differences in the input coding schemes employed to encode letters
in written words. To that end, we conducted a lexical decision experiment
with adult Braille readers in which the pseudowords were created by
transposing/replacing two letters.
We found a word-frequency effect for words. In addition, unlike parallel
experiments in the visual modality, we failed to find any clear signs of
transposed-letter confusability effects. This dissociation highlights the
differences between modalities.
The present data argue against models of letter position coding that assume
that transposed-letter effects (in the visual modality) occur at a
relatively late, abstract locus.
Three pigeons pecked at letters of the alphabet and at the symbol "?" displayed on a computer-driven cathode ray screen. A 4 by 4 matrix of infrared emitting and detecting diodes and associated circuitry identified the location of a pigeon's responses to the screen. Responses at the target letter T were probabilistically reinforced with food whenever T appeared in a string of three letters in the middle of the screen. Responses at the symbol "?" appearing below this string were probabilistically reinforced whenever T did not appear. The letter F anywhere in the three-character string either strongly predicted the occurrence of the target letter T, in two conditions, or predicted its nonoccurrence, in a third. This manipulation of the frequency with which the familiar letter F predicted T was shown to change the function relating probability of a correct peck at the symbol "?" to the number of Fs in the string. This effect may be interpreted as an instance of the phenomenon where an organism's acquired knowledge changes what it sees.
Event-related potential (ERP) studies of word recognition have provided fundamental insights into the time-course and stages of visual and auditory word form processing in reading. Here, we used ERPs to track the time-course of phonological processing in dyslexic adults and matched controls. Participants engaged in semantic judgments of visually presented high-cloze probability sentences ending either with (a) their best completion word, (b) a homophone of the best completion, (c) a pseudohomophone of the best completion, or (d) an unrelated word, to examine the interplay of phonological and orthographic processing in reading and the stage(s) of processing affected in developmental dyslexia. Early ERP peaks (N1, P2, N2) were modulated in amplitude similarly in the two groups of participants. However, dyslexic readers failed to show the P3a modulation seen in control participants for unexpected homophones and pseudohomophones (i.e., sentence completions that are acceptable phonologically but are misspelt). Furthermore, P3a amplitudes significantly correlated with reaction times in each experimental condition. Our results showed no sign of a deficit in accessing phonological representations during reading, since sentence primes yielded phonological priming effects that did not differ between participant groups in the early phases of processing. On the other hand, we report new evidence for a deficient attentional engagement with orthographically unexpected but phonologically expected words in dyslexia, irrespective of task focus on orthography or phonology. In our view, this result is consistent with deficiency in reading occurring from the point at which attention is oriented to phonological analysis, which may underlie broader difficulties in sublexical decoding.
developmental dyslexia; event-related potential; P3a; attention; orthographic processing; homophone; reading
In a post-cued letter identification task, participants were presented with 7-letter nonword target stimuli that were formed of a random string of consonants (DCMFPLR) or a pronounceable sequence of consonants and vowels (DAMOPUR). Targets were preceded by briefly presented pattern-masked primes that could be the same sequence of letters as the target, composed of seven different letters, or sharing either the first or last five letters of the target. There was some evidence for repetition priming effects that were independent of target type in an early component, the N/P150, thought to reflect the mapping of visual features onto letter representations, and that is insensitive to orthographic structure. Following this, pronounceable nonwords showed significantly greater repetition priming effects than consonant strings, in line with the behavioral results. Initial versus final overlap only started to influence target processing at around 200–250 ms post-target onset, at about the same time as the effects of target type emerged. The results are in line with a model where the initial parallel mapping of visual features onto a location-specific orthographic code is followed by the subsequent activation of location-invariant orthographic and phonological codes.
Pseudoword superiority effect; ERPs; Nonword processing; Masked priming
We examined the effects of letter transposition in Hebrew in three masked-priming experiments. Hebrew, like English has an alphabetic orthography where sequential and contiguous letter strings represent phonemes. However, being a Semitic language it has a non-concatenated morphology that is based on root derivations. Experiment 1 showed that transposed-letter (TL) root primes inhibited responses to targets derived from the non-transposed root letters, and that this inhibition was unrelated to relative root frequency. Experiment 2 replicated this result and showed that if the transposed letters of the root created a nonsense-root that had no lexical representation, then no inhibition and no facilitation were obtained. Finally, Experiment 3 demonstrated that in contrast to English, French, or Spanish, TL nonword primes did not facilitate recognition of targets, and when the root letters embedded in them consisted of a legal root morpheme, they produced inhibition. These results suggest that lexical space in alphabetic orthographies may be structured very differently in different languages if their morphological structure diverges qualitatively. In Hebrew, lexical space is organized according to root families rather than simple orthographic structure, so that all words derived from the same root are interconnected or clustered together, independent of overall orthographic similarity.
Morphology; Letter Transposition; Hebrew; Masked-Priming
A growing literature has suggested that processing of visual information presented near the hands is facilitated. In this study, we investigated whether the near-hands superiority effect also occurs with the hands moving. In two experiments, participants performed a cyclical bimanual movement task requiring concurrent visual identification of briefly presented letters. For both the static and dynamic hand conditions, the results showed improved letter recognition performance with the hands closer to the stimuli. The finding that the encoding advantage for near-hand stimuli also occurred with the hands moving suggests that the effect is regulated in real time, in accordance with the concept of a bimodal neural system that dynamically updates hand position in external space.
Perception and action
Accurate reading of words and text relies on reliable identification of letters in left to right order. Previous studies have shown that people often make letter-reversal errors when identifying strings of letters away from fixation. These errors contribute to a decline in letter identification performance away from fixation. This study tests the hypothesis that these errors are due to decreased precision (increased position noise) in the coding of letter position in the periphery. To test our hypothesis, we measured observers' performance for identifying pairs of adjacent letters presented within 8 letter positions left and right of fixation. The task was to name the two letters of each pair, from left to right. Responses were scored in two ways for each letter position: (1) letters were identified correctly and in the correct position, and (2) letters were identified correctly but in the wrong position. The ratio of these two scores, when subtracted from 1, gives the empirical rate of mislocation errors. Our primary finding shows that the coding of letter position becomes increasingly imprecise with distance from fixation. A model in which the encoded position of each letter is independent and Gaussian distributed, and in which the spread of the distribution governs the precision of localizing the letter accounts for the empirical rate of mislocation errors. We also found that precision of letter position coding scales with letter size but the precision does not improve with the use of a pre-cue.
Local signs; letter reversals; letter mislocations; crowding; letter identification; pattern vision
This article details a study which predicted that across a wide range of print sizes dyslexic reading would follow the same curve shape as skilled reading, with constant reading rates across large print sizes and a sharp decline in reading rates below a critical print size. It also predicted that dyslexic readers would require larger critical print sizes to attain their maximum reading speeds, following the letter position coding deficit hypothesis. Reading speed was measured across twelve print sizes ranging from Snellen equivalents of 20/12 to 20/200 letter sizes for a group of dyslexic readers in Grades 2 to 4 (aged 7 to 10 years), and for non-dyslexic readers in Grades 1 to 3 (aged 6 to 8 years). The groups were equated for word reading ability. Results confirmed that reading rate-by-print size curves followed the same two-limbed shape for dyslexic and non-dyslexic readers. Dyslexic reading curves showed higher critical print sizes and shallower reading rate-by-print size slopes below the critical print size, consistent with the hypothesis of a letter-position coding deficit. Non-dyslexic reading curves also showed a decrease of critical print size with age. A developmental lag model of dyslexic reading does not account for the results, since the regression of critical print size on maximum reading rate differed between groups.
Implicit learning was reported to be intact in schizophrenia using artificial grammar learning. However, emerging evidence indicates that artificial grammar learning is not a unitary process. The authors used dual coding stimuli and schizophrenia clinical symptom dimensions to re-evaluate the effect of schizophrenia on various components of artificial grammar learning.
Letter string and color pattern artificial grammar learning performances were compared between 63 schizophrenic patients and 27 comparison subjects. Four symptom dimensions derived from a Chinese Positive and Negative Symptom Scale ratings were correlated with patients' artificial grammar implicit learning performances along the two stimulus dimensions. Patients' explicit memory performances were assessed by verbal paired associates and visual reproduction subtests of the Wechsler Memory Scales Revised Version to provide a contrast to their implicit memory function.
Schizophrenia severely hindered color pattern artificial grammar learning while the disease affected lexical string artificial grammar learning to a lesser degree after correcting the influences from age, education and the performance of explicit memory function of both verbal and visual modalities. Both learning performances correlated significantly with the severity of patients' schizophrenic clinical symptom dimensions that reflect poor abstract thinking, disorganized thinking, and stereotyped thinking.
The results of this study suggested that schizophrenia affects various mechanisms of artificial grammar learning differently. Implicit learning, knowledge acquisition in the absence of conscious awareness, is not entirely intact in patients with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia affects implicit learning through an impairment of the ability of making abstractions from rules and at least in part decreasing the capacity for perceptual learning.
Dyslexia is associated with numerous deficits to speech processing. Accordingly, a large literature asserts that dyslexics manifest a phonological deficit. Few studies, however, have assessed the phonological grammar of dyslexics, and none has distinguished a phonological deficit from a phonetic impairment. Here, we show that these two sources can be dissociated. Three experiments demonstrate that a group of adult dyslexics studied here is impaired in phonetic discrimination (e.g., ba vs. pa), and their deficit compromises even the basic ability to identify acoustic stimuli as human speech. Remarkably, the ability of these individuals to generalize grammatical phonological rules is intact. Like typical readers, these Hebrew-speaking dyslexics identified ill-formed AAB stems (e.g., titug) as less wordlike than well-formed ABB controls (e.g., gitut), and both groups automatically extended this rule to nonspeech stimuli, irrespective of reading ability. The contrast between the phonetic and phonological capacities of these individuals demonstrates that the algebraic engine that generates phonological patterns is distinct from the phonetic interface that implements them. While dyslexia compromises the phonetic system, certain core aspects of the phonological grammar can be spared.
In two previous studies we assessed a diffculty of dyslexic readers with letter string processing by using variants of the partial report paradigm, e.g., Averbach and Coriell [Averbach, E., & Coriell, A. S. (1961). Short-term memory in vision. Bell Systems Technical Journal, 40, 309-328] which requires report of a letter name in response to a position cue. The poor dyslexic performance was interpreted as evidence for a visual-attentional deficit of dyslexic readers. In the present study, we avoided verbal report by using a task which only required the detection of predefined targets (letters or pseudoletters) in strings. On this purely visual task, the dyslexic readers did not differ from non-impaired readers. This finding speaks against a basic visual-attentional deficit; rather it suggests that the dyslexic deficit on partial report paradigms stems from a problem in establishing a string representation which includes position and name codes.
Developmental dyslexia; Target detection; Visual attention; String processing
Dyslexia, or a reading disability, occurs when an individual has significant difficulty with speed and accuracy of word decoding. Comprehension of text and spelling are also affected. The diagnosis of dyslexia involves the use of reading tests, but the continuum of reading performance means that any cutoff point is arbitrary. The IQ score does not play a role in the diagnosis of dyslexia. The cognitive difficulties of dyslexics include problems with speech perception, recognizing and manipulating the basic sounds in a language, language memory, and learning the sounds of letters. Dyslexia is a neurological condition with a genetic basis. There are abnormalities in the brains of dyslexic individuals. There are also differences in the electrophysiological and structural characteristics of the brains of dyslexics. Physicians play a particularly important role in recognizing children who are at risk for dyslexia and helping their parents obtain the proper assessment.
Dyslexia; Learning disabilities; Reading disability
Imaging studies show that in normal language correlated activity between anterior and posterior brain regions increases as the linguistic and semantic content (i.e., from false fonts, letter strings, pseudo words, to words) of stimuli increase. In schizophrenia however, disrupted functional connectivity between frontal and posterior brain regions has been frequently reported and these disruptions may change the nature of language organization. We characterized basic linguistic operations in word and letter string processing in a region-of-interest network using structural equation modeling (SEM). Healthy volunteers and volunteers with schizophrenia performed an fMRI one-back matching task with real words and consonant letter strings. We hypothesized that left hemisphere network dysfunction in schizophrenia would be present during processes dealing with linguistic/semantic content. The modeling results suggest aberrant left hemisphere function in schizophrenia, even in tasks requiring minimal access to language. Alternative mechanisms included increases in right hemisphere involvement and increased top-down influence from frontal to posterior regions.
Schizophrenia and language; Lateralization; Lexical-semantic processing; Imaging; Effective Connectivity; Modeling
In an experiment measuring event-related brain potentials (ERPs), single-letter targets were preceded by briefly presented masked letter primes. name and case consistency were manipulated across primes and targets so that the prime was either the same letter as the target (or not), and was presented in the same case as the target (or not). Separate analyses were performed for letters whose upper- and lowercase forms had similar features (or not). the results revealed an effect of prime-target visual similarity between 120 and 180 msec, an effect of case-specific letter identity between 180 and 220 msec, and an effect of case-independent letter identity between 220 and 300 msec. We argue that these ERP results reflect processing in a hierarchical system for letter recognition that involves both case-specific and case-independent representations of alphabetic stimuli.
The claim that speech perception abilities are impaired in dyslexia was investigated in a group of 62 dyslexic children and 51 average readers matched in age.
To test whether there was robust evidence of speech perception deficits in children with dyslexia, speech perception in noise and quiet was measured using eight different tasks involving the identification and discrimination of a complex and highly natural synthetic ‘pea’-‘bee’ contrast (copy synthesised from natural models) and the perception of naturally-produced words.
Children with dyslexia, on average, performed more poorly than average readers in the synthetic syllables identification task in quiet and in across-category discrimination (but not when tested using an adaptive procedure). They did not differ from average readers on two tasks of word recognition in noise or identification of synthetic syllables in noise. For all tasks, a majority of individual children with dyslexia performed within norms. Finally, speech perception generally did not correlate with pseudo-word reading or phonological processing, the core skills related to dyslexia.
On the tasks and speech stimuli we used, most children with dyslexia do not appear to show a consistent deficit in speech perception.
Dyslexia; Speech perception; Noise; Reading; Categorical perception
Letters of recommendation are central to the hiring process. However, gender stereotypes could bias how recommenders describe female compared to male applicants. In the current study, text analysis software was used to examine 886 letters of recommendation written on behalf of 235 male and 42 female applicants for either a chemistry or biochemistry faculty position at a large U.S. research university. Results revealed more similarities than differences in letters written for male and female candidates. However, recommenders used significantly more standout adjectives to describe male as compared to female candidates. Letters containing more standout words also included more ability words and fewer grindstone words. Research is needed to explore how differences in language use affect perceivers’ evaluations of female candidates.
Gender schemas; Sexism; Implicit biases; Hiring decisions; Chemistry
A crucial issue in word encoding is whether morphemes are involved in early stages. One paradigm that tests for this employs the transposed letter (TL) effect – the difference in the times to process a word (misfile) when it is preceded by a TL prime (mifsile) and when it is preceded by a substitute letter (SL) prime (mintile) – and examines whether the TL effect is smaller when the two adjacent letters cross a morpheme boundary. The evidence from prior studies is not consistent. Experiments 1 and 2 employed a parafoveal preview paradigm in which the transposed letters either crossed the prefix-stem boundary or did not, and found a clear TL effect regardless of whether the two letters crossed the morpheme boundary. Experiment 3 replicated this finding employing a masked priming lexical-decision paradigm. It thus appears that morphemes are not involved in early processes in English that are sensitive to letter order. There is some evidence for morphemic modulation of the TL effect in other languages; thus, the properties of the language may modulate when morphemes influence early letter position encoding.
Starting from the hypothesis that printed word identification initially involves the parallel mapping of visual features onto location-specific letter identities, we analyze the type of information that would be involved in optimally mapping this location-specific orthographic code onto a location-invariant lexical code. We assume that some intermediate level of coding exists between individual letters and whole words, and that this involves the representation of letter combinations. We then investigate the nature of this intermediate level of coding given the constraints of optimality. This intermediate level of coding is expected to compress data while retaining as much information as possible about word identity. Information conveyed by letters is a function of how much they constrain word identity and how visible they are. Optimization of this coding is a combination of minimizing resources (using the most compact representations) and maximizing information. We show that in a large proportion of cases, non-contiguous letter sequences contain more information than contiguous sequences, while at the same time requiring less precise coding. Moreover, we found that the best predictor of human performance in orthographic priming experiments was within-word ranking of conditional probabilities, rather than average conditional probabilities. We conclude that from an optimality perspective, readers learn to select certain contiguous and non-contiguous letter combinations as information that provides the best cue to word identity.
bigrams; visual word recognition; information; optimization