Irit Bar-KochvaOrit GilorZvia Breznitz

An examination of the process of acquiring visual word representations in dyslexic children


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Skilled reading relies on the ability to access word representations, conceptualized as connections established between a word’s orthography, phonology and meaning in memory. This study set out to explore the process of acquisition of these representations. The central hypothesis was that dyslexic readers would present difficulties in forming and maintaining word representations in memory, presumably due to instability in processes of decoding. Their performance was compared to the performance of age-matched and reading-level-matched typical readers (n = 20 per group). The hypothesis was tested by repeatedly exposing the readers to the same target words embedded in word-lists and meaningful texts. The targets were words which the dyslexic participants had difficulty to read in a pre-test, while being part of their spoken vocabulary. The output of each encounter with a target word was analyzed. The results indicate reduced accuracy rates of dyslexic readers compared to typical readers, despite the repeated exposures to the same targets. In addition, dyslexic readers showed larger variability in types of output and higher rates of inconsistency in producing the same output across encounters with the same target. The results therefore uphold the hypothesis of a deficiency of dyslexic readers in forming and retaining word representations in reading, and point to instability in processes of decoding orthography to phonology.

Developmental dyslexia; Word recognition; Decoding; Phonology; Orthography