The Prime Lexicality Effect in children: Do word compete in developing readers?

The Prime Lexicality Effect in children: Do word compete in developing readers?

First Author: Severine Casalis -- Université de Lille
Keywords: visual word recognition, Orthography, Grade 4-5, Lexical Decision, masked priming
Abstract / Summary: 

The aim of this study was to examine how developing readers encode orthographic information. More specifically, this study examines lexical competition in developing readers. Masked orthographic priming studies conducted in expert readers have shown that the presentation of a nonword prime sharing all but one letter with a target word facilitates the recognition of a target (eg bire DIRE). However, when the prime is a word that is more frequent than the target (eg fire DIRE), an inhibition effect is observed. This Prime Lexicality Effect is seen as reflecting lexical competition. While this effect has been reported in expert readers, suggesting that words compete within the orthographic lexicon, few is known about this mechanism is developing readers.
We report here the results of an experiment conducted with third and fifth graders. Performance of third graders was compared to performance of fifth graders within a lexical decision task with masked priming (prime duration: 60 ms). 65 children had to perform the lexical decision task. In a first part of the study, target words (mean frequency: 20 per million) were preceded by related or unrelated pseudowords. In a second part, target words were preceded by related words or unrelated words (frequency: 80) .
Third graders showed orthographic priming in both conditions (word and pseudoword primes). By contrast, orthographic priming was evidenced when primes were pseudoword only in fifth graders. This result suggests there is no competition in grade 3 but lexical competition is present in grade 5.