A ROWS is a ROSE: Spelling, sound, and reading
Skilled readers generally are assumed to make little or no use of words’ phonological features in visual word identification. Contrary to this assumption, college students’ performance in the present reading experiments showed large effects of stimulus word phonology. In Experiments 1 and 2, these subjects produced larger false positive error rates in a semantic categorization task when they responded to stimulus foils that were homophonic to category exemplars (e.g., ROWS for the category A FLOWER) than when they responded to spelling control foils. Additionally, in Experiment 2, this homophony effect was found under brief-exposure pattern-masking conditions, a result consistent with the possibility that phonology is an early source of constraint in word identification. Subjects did, however, correctly reject most homophone foils in Experiments 1 and 2. Experiment 3 investigated the source of this ability. The results of Experiment 3 suggest that subjects detected homophone impostors, such as ROWS, by verifying target foil spellings against their knowledge of the correct spellings of category exemplars, such as ROSE.