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What are the functional units in reading? Evidence for statistical variation influencing word processing

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Abstract

Computational models of reading have differed in terms of whether they propose a single route forming the mapping between orthography and phonology or whether there is a lexical/sublexical route distinction. A critical test of the architecture of the reading system is how it deals with multi-letter graphemes. Rastle and Coltheart (1998) found that the presence of digraphs in nonwords but not in words led to an increase in naming times, suggesting that nonwords were processed via a distinct sequential route to words. In contrast Pagliuca, Monaghan, and McIntosh (2008) implemented a single route model of reading and showed that under conditions of visual noise the presence of digraphs in words did have an effect on naming accuracy. In this study, we investigated whether such digraph effects could be found in both words and nonwords under conditions of visual noise. If so it would suggest that effects on words and nonwords are comparable. A single route connectionist model of reading showed greater accuracy for both words and nonwords containing digraphs. Experimental results showed participants were more accurate in recognising words if they contained digraphs. However contrary to model predictions they were less accurate in recognising nonwords containing digraphs compared to controls. We discuss the challenges faced by both theoretical perspectives in interpreting these findings and in light of a psycholinguistic grain size theory of reading.

Bibliographic note

Proceedings of the 12th Neural Computation and Psychology Workshop Birkbeck, University of London, 8 – 10 April 2010