Reading and Writing

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 55–77 | Cite as

Assessing the importance of subvocalization during normal silent reading

  • Meredyth Daneman
  • Margaret Newson


A concurrent speaking paradigm was used to assess the importance of subvocalization during the reading of lengthy natural prose passages. Experiment 1 showed that having subjects count aloud while reading interfered with their comprehension and recall of the text's details as well as its gist, but did not affect the durability of the memory trace. Experiment 2 replicated these findings and established the validity of using concurrent speaking as a technique to interfere with speech-specific processes during silent reading. By pitting concurrent speaking against a nonverbal concurrent task, Experiment 2 provided evidence that its detrimental effect on comprehension was due to a competition for speech-related resources rather than a general competition for cognitive resources. Interfering with speech recoding during silent reading led to an average decrement of 10–12% in comprehension performance. However, Experiment 2 also showed that there were substantial individual differences in the magnitude of the speech interference effect and that these differences were systematically related to subjective reports about the concurrent speaking manipulation.


Articulatory suppression Comprehension Reading Subvocalization Working memory 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baddeley, A. D. (1979). Working memory and reading. In P. A. Kolers, M. E. Wrolstad and H. Bouma (eds.),Processing of visible language (pp. 355–370). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  2. Baddeley, A. D., Eldridge, M., and Lewis, V. (1981). The role of subvocalization in reading.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 33A: 439–454.Google Scholar
  3. Baddeley, A. D. and Hitch, G. J. (1974). Working memory. In G. A. Bower (ed.),The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol 8: 47–90). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baddeley, A. D. and Lewis, A. (1981). Inner active processes in reading: The inner voice, the inner ear, and the inner eye. In A. M. Lesgold and C. A. Perfetti (eds.),Interactive processes in reading (pp. 107–129). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  5. Banks, W. P., Oka, E. and Shugarman, S. (1981). Recoding of printed words to internal speech: Does recoding come before lexical access? In O. J. L. Tzeng and H. Singer (eds.),Perception of print: Reading research in experimental psychology (pp. 137–170). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  6. Besner, D., Davies, J. and Daniels, S. (1981). Reading for meaning: The effects of concurrent articulation.Quarterly Journal of Psychology 36: 701–711.Google Scholar
  7. Brown, J. I. (1984).Efficient reading, 6th ed. Minnesota: D.C. Heath & Co.Google Scholar
  8. Coltheart, M. (1978). Lexical access in simple reading tasks. In G. Underwood (ed.),Strategies in information processing (pp. 151–216). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  9. Daneman, M. and Carpenter, P. A. (1980). Individual differences in working memory and reading.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 19: 450–466.Google Scholar
  10. Daneman, M. and Stainton, M. (1991). Phonological recoding in silent reading.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 17: 618–632.Google Scholar
  11. Edfelt, A. W. (1960).Silent speech and silent reading. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  12. Flesch, R. (1948). A new readability yardstick.The Journal of Applied Psychology 32: 221–233.Google Scholar
  13. Grahame, K. (1974).The Wind in the Willows. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  14. Just, M. A. and Carpenter, P. A. (1987).The psychology of reading and language comprehension. Mass: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  15. Hardyck, C. D. and Petrinovich, L. F. (1970). Subvocal speech and comprehension level as a function of the difficulty level of reading materials.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 9: 647–652.Google Scholar
  16. Kintsch, W. and van Dijk, T. A. (1978). Toward a model of text comprehension and production.Psychological Review 85: 363–394.Google Scholar
  17. Kleiman, G. M. (1975). Speech recoding in reading.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 14: 323–329.Google Scholar
  18. Levy, B. A. (1977). Reading: Speech and meaning processes.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 16: 623–628.Google Scholar
  19. Levy, B. A. (1978). Speech processing during reading. In A. M. Lesgold, S. W. Pellegrino, S. W. Fokkema and R. Glaser (eds.),Cognitive psychology and instruction (pp. 123–151). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  20. Margolin, C. M. Griebel, B. and Wolford, G. (1982). Effect of distraction on reading versus listening.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition 8: 613–618.Google Scholar
  21. Meyer, D. E., Schvaneveldt, R. W. and Ruddy, M. G. (1974). Functions of graphemic and phonemic codes in visual word recognition.Memory and Cognition 2: 309–321.Google Scholar
  22. Murray, D. J. (1968). Articulation and acoustic confusability in short-term memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology 78: 679–684.Google Scholar
  23. Patterson, K. and Coltheart, V. (1987). Phonological processes in reading: A tutorial review. In M. Coltheart (ed.),Attention and performance XII: The psychology of reading (pp. 421–447). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  24. Rubenstein, H., Lewis, S. S. and Rubenstein, M. A. (1971). Evidence for phonemic recoding in visual word recognition.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 10: 645–657.Google Scholar
  25. Sachs, J. S. (1974). Memory in reading and listening to discourse.Memory and Cognition 2: 95–100.Google Scholar
  26. Seidenberg, M. S., Waters, G. S., Barnes, M. and Tanenhaus, M. J. (1984). When does irregular spelling or pronunciation influence word recognition?Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 23: 383–404.Google Scholar
  27. Slowiaczek, M. L. and Clifton, C. (1980). Subvocalization and reading for meaning.Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 19: 573–582.Google Scholar
  28. Van Orden, G. C. (1987). A ROWS is a ROSE: Spelling, sound and reading.Memory and Cognition 15: 181–198.Google Scholar
  29. Waters, G. S., Caplan, D. and Hildebrandt, N. (1987). Working memory and written sentence comprehension. In M. Coltheart (ed.),Attention and performance XII: The psychology of reading (pp. 531–555). Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Waters, G. S., Komoda, M. K. and Arbuckle, T. Y. (1985). The effects of concurrent tasks on reading: Implications for phonological recoding.Journal of Memory and Language 24: 27–45.Google Scholar
  31. Waters, G. S., Seidenberg, M. S. and Bruck, M. (1984). Children's and adults' use of spelling-sound information in three reading tasks.Memory and Cognition 12: 293–305.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meredyth Daneman
    • 1
  • Margaret Newson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Erindale CollegeUniversity of TorontoMississaugaCanada

Personalised recommendations