Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




L. R. Brooks




Four experiments were run to determine the role of specific visual experience in fluent visual word identification. The basic paradigm consisted of training Ss to rapidly provide the assigned English meanings of each of 20 pseudowords (e.g., PARTRAP - fire). Throughout training, half the pseudowords were consistently presented visually (Visual condition) and half were consistently presented auditorily (Auditory condition), with the assigned meanings presented auditorily for both conditions. In the Test Phase, which immediately followed training, the subject was required to judge whether a given training word's meaning fit appropriately into a sentence, with response time (RT) per word being the dependent variable. In this Test Phase all words were presented visually, which made it possible to observe any facilitation in meaning-access time due to prior visual experience.

Experiments #1 and #2, utilizing this procedure, demonstrated a facilitation due to specific visual experience on later rapid visual word identification.

Experiments #3 and #4 addressed the issue of whether the facilitation due to visual experience reflected (a) more efficient derivation of phonic-linguistic cues or (b) direct meaning-access from the visual presentation (a non-phonic process). Experiment #3 was interpreted as supporting the non-phonic processing alternative with the finding that auditory confusibility among the pseudowords had little or no effect on the RTs for Visual condition words while significantly lengthening Auditory condition words' RTs. Experiment #4 provided further support for the non-phonic interpretation by demonstrating no alteration of the basic effect even when Ss were given added trials in training requiring them to rapidly read aloud some of the Visual and Auditory condition words. These latter results argue against the effect being due to either novelty on the initial visual presentation of Auditory condition words or to their lack of training in the derivation of phonic-linguistic cues from the visual stimulus.

It was concluded that specific visual experience is required to achieve the most rapid rates of visual word identification with strong evidence for such experience facilitating the development of a meaning access process dependent on graphic-letter I.D. cues alone. No clear evidence for the operation of a phonic-linguistic recoding mechanism at these rapid rates of visual word identification was found. The implications of these findings concerning efficient reading in general were also discussed.

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