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What makes a letter a letter? – New evidence for letter-specific processing strategies

  • Reading as a cultural skill is acquired over a long period of training. This thesis supports the idea that reading is based on specific strategies that result from modification and coordination of earlier developed object recognition strategies. The reading-specific processing strategies are considered to be more analytic compared to object recognition strategies, which are described as holistic. To enable proper reading skills these strategies have to become automatized. Study 1 (Chapter 4) examined the temporal and visual constrains of letter recognition strategies. In the first experiment two successively presented stimuli (letters or non-letters) had to be classified as same or different. The second stimulus could either be presented in isolation or surrounded by a shape, which was either similar (congruent) or different (incongruent) in its geometrical properties to the stimulus itself. The non-letter pairs were presented twice as often as the letter pairs. The results demonstrated a preference for the holistic strategy also in letters, even if the non- letter set was presented twice as often as the letter set, showing that the analytic strategy does not replace the holistic one completely, but that the usage of both strategies is task-sensitive. In Experiment 2, we compared the Global Precedence Effect (GPE) for letters and non-letters in central viewing, with the global stimulus size close to the functional visual field in whole word reading (6.5◦ of visual angle) and local stimuli close to the critical size for fluent reading of individual letters (0.5◦ of visual angle). Under these conditions, the GPE remained robust for non-letters. For letters, however, it disappeared: letters showed no overall response time advantage for the global level and symmetric congruence effects (local-to-global as well as global-to-local interference). These results indicate that reading is based on resident analytic visual processing strategies for letters. In Study 2 (Chapter 5) we replicated the latter result with a large group of participants as part of a study in which pairwise associations of non-letters and phonological or non-phonological sounds were systematically trained. We investigated whether training would eliminate the GPE also for non-letters. We observed, however, that the differentiation between letters and non-letter shapes persists after training. This result implies that pairwise association learning is not sufficient to overrule the process differentiation in adults. In addition, subtle effects arising in the letter condition (due to enhanced power) enable us to further specify the differentiation in processing between letters and non-letter shapes. The influence of reading ability on the GPE was examined in Study 3 (Chapter 6). Children with normal reading skills and children with poor reading skills were instructed to detect a target in Latin or Hebrew Navon letters. Children with normal reading skills showed a GPE for Latin letters, but not for Hebrew letters. In contrast, the dyslexia group did not show GPE for either kind of stimuli. These results suggest that dyslexic children are not able to apply the same automatized letter processing strategy as children with normal reading skills do. The difference between the analytic letter processing and the holistic non-letter processing was transferred to the context of whole word reading in Study 4 (Chapter 7). When participants were instructed to detect either a letter or a non-letter in a mixed character string, for letters the reaction times and error rates increased linearly from the left to the right terminal position in the string, whereas for non-letters a symmetrical U-shaped function was observed. These results suggest, that the letter-specific processing strategies are triggered automatically also for more word-like material. Thus, this thesis supports and expands prior results of letter-specific processing and gives new evidences for letter-specific processing strategies.

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Author:Andreas Schmitt
URN (permanent link):urn:nbn:de:hbz:386-kluedo-45120
Advisor:Thomas Lachmann
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language of publication:English
Publication Date:2016/12/12
Year of Publication:2016
Publishing Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Granting Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Acceptance Date of the Thesis:2016/12/08
Date of the Publication (Server):2016/12/13
Tag:Buchstabe; Dyslexie; Lesen; Lesenlernen; Lesestörung; Objekterkennung
Number of page:167
Faculties / Organisational entities:Fachbereich Sozialwissenschaften
DDC-Cassification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 150 Psychologie
3 Sozialwissenschaften / 300 Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie, Anthropologie
Licence (German):Standard gemäß KLUEDO-Leitlinien vom 30.07.2015