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Effects of individual differences in verbal skills on eye-movement patterns during sentence reading

This study is a large-scale exploration of the influence that individual reading skills exert on eye-movement behavior in sentence reading. Seventy-one non-college-bound 16–24 year-old speakers of English completed a battery of 18 verbal and cognitive skill assessments, and read a series of sentences as their eye-movements were monitored. Statistical analyses were performed to establish what tests of reading abilities were predictive of eye-movement patterns across this population and how strong the effects were. We found that individual scores in rapid automatized naming and word identification tests (i) were the only participant variables with reliable predictivity throughout the time-course of reading; (ii) elicited effects that superceded in magnitude the effects of established predictors like word length or frequency; and (iii) strongly modulated the influence of word length and frequency on fixation times. We discuss implications of our findings for testing reading ability, as well as for research of eye-movements in reading.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

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Domain-specific Rapid Automatized Naming deficits in children at risk for learning disabilities

Performance in Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) tasks with different materials (dice, digits, letters, objects) and key precursor skills of reading and arithmetic were assessed in kindergarten children (n = 541) in their last year before entering elementary school. Based on their precursor skills, three groups of children were identified, i.e. children at risk for reading problems (n = 31), children at risk for arithmetic problems (n = 39), and children at risk for problems in both domains (n = 34). These at-risk children were compared to a control group (n = 343) regarding their performance in the different RAN tasks. Results revealed domain-specific deficits in both groups of children with a single risk: While children at risk for problems in reading exhibited deficits in the RAN of letters and objects, children at risk for problems in arithmetic showed deficits in the RAN of dice and digits. The group of children at risk for problems in both domains displayed additive, domain-general deficits. Findings are discussed in the context of behavioral and neurocognitive research on reading and mathematical disabilities.

from the Journal of Neurolinguistics

Is the ‘naming’ deficit in dyslexia a misnomer?

We report a study that investigated the widely held belief that naming-speed deficits in developmental dyslexia reflect impaired access to lexical-phonological codes. To investigate this issue, we compared adult dyslexic and adult non-dyslexic readers’ performance when naming and semantically categorizing arrays of objects. Dyslexic readers yielded slower response latencies than non-dyslexic readers when naming objects, but a subsequent comparison of object-naming and object-categorization tasks showed that the apparent ‘naming’ deficit could be attributed to a more general difficulty in retrieving information – either phonological or semantic – from the visual stimulus. Our findings suggest that although visual–phonological connections may be crucial in explaining naming-speed performance they do not fully characterise dyslexic readers’ naming-speed impairments.

from Cognition