Phonological precision for word recognition in skilled readers

Mahmoud Elsherif, Linda Wheeldon, Steven Frisson

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According to the lexical quality hypothesis, differences in the orthographic, semantic, and phonological representations of words will affect individual reading performance. While several studies have focused on orthographic precision and semantic coherence, few have considered phonological precision. The present study used a suite of individual difference measures to assess which components of lexical quality contributed to competition resolution in a masked priming experiment. The experiment measured form priming for word and pseudoword targets with dense and sparse neighbourhoods in 84 university students. Individual difference measures of language and cognitive skills were also collected and a principal component analysis was used to group these data into components. The data showed that phonological precision and NHD interacted with form priming. In participants with high phonological precision, the direction of priming for word targets with sparse neighbourhoods was facilitatory, while the direction for those with dense neighbourhoods was inhibitory. In contrast, people with low phonological precision showed the opposite pattern, but the interaction was non-significant. These results suggest that the component of phonological precision is linked to lexical competition for word recognition and that access to the mental lexicon during reading is affected by differing levels of phonological processing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Early online date15 Sept 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Sept 2021


  • Lexical quality hypothesis
  • visual word recognition
  • orthography
  • phonology
  • semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology


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