Eliciting Dyslexic Symptoms in Proficient Readers by Simulating Deficits in Grapheme-to-Phoneme Conversion and Visuo-Magnocellular Processing
Among the cognitive causes of dyslexia, phonological and magnocellular deficits have attracted a substantial amount of research. Their role and their exact impact on reading ability are still a matter of debate, partly also because large samples of dyslexics are hard to recruit. Here, we report a new technique to simulate dyslexic symptoms in normal readers in two ways. Although difficulties in grapheme-to-phoneme conversion were elicited by manipulating the identifiability of written letters, visual-magnocellular processing deficits were generated by presenting letters moving dynamically on the screen. Both factors were embedded into a lexical word–pseudoword decision task with proficient German readers. Although both experimental variations systematically increased lexical decision times, they did not interact. Subjects successfully performed word–pseudoword distinctions at all levels of simulation, with consistently longer reaction times for pseudowords than for words. Interestingly, detecting a pseudoword was more difficult in the grapheme-to-phoneme conversion simulation as indicated by a significant interaction of word type and letter shape. These behavioural effects are consistent with those observed in ‘real’ dyslexics in the literature. The paradigm is thus a potential means of generating novel hypotheses about dyslexia, which can easily be tested with normal readers before screening and recruiting real dyslexics. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.