Memory & Cognition

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 685–694 | Cite as

The word-superiority effect and phonological recoding



Previous work indicates that the locus of the word-superiority effect in letter detection is nonvisual and that letter names, but not letter shapes, are more accessible in words than in nonwords, that is, scrambled collections of letters (e.g., Krueger & Shapiro, 1979; Krueger & Stadtlander, 1991; Massaro, 1979). The nonvisual (verbal or lexical) coding may be phonological, or it may be more abstract. In the present study, a word advantage in the speed of letter detection was found even when the target letter was silent in the six-letter test word (e.g., s inisland). Other test words varied in their frequency of occurrence in English and number of syllables (1, 2, or 3). The word advantage was larger for higher frequencywords but was not affected by syllable length. The presence of unpronounceable nonwords and silent letters in the words discouraged reliance upon the phonological code but did not thereby eliminate the word advantage. Thus, the word-superiority effect with free viewing is not based entirely upon phonological recoding.


  1. Banks, W. P., Oka, E., &Shugarman, S. (1981). Recoding of printed words to internal speech: Does recoding come before lexical access? In O. J. L. Tzeng & H. Singer (Eds.),Perception of print: Reading research in experimental psychology (pp. 137–170). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  2. Baron, J., &Thurston, I. (1973). An analysis of the word-superiority effect.Cognitive Psychology,4, 207–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chastain, G. (1981). Phonological and orthographic factors in the wordsuperiority effect.Memory & Cognition,9, 389–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chastain, G. (1987). Visually-presented letter strings typically are encoded phonologically: Some converging evidence.Journal of General Psychology,114, 147–156.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Corcoran, D. W. J. (1966). An acoustic factor in letter cancellation.Nature,210, 658.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Corcoran, D. W. J. (1967). Acoustic factors in proof reading.Nature,214, 851–852.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Corcoran, D. W. J., &Weening, D. L. (1968). Acoustic factors in visual search.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.20, 83–85.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Drewnowski, A., &Healy, A. F. (1982). Phonetic factors in letter detection: A reevaluation.Memory & Cognition,10, 145–154.Google Scholar
  9. Gielen, I., Brysbaert, M., &Dhondt, A. (1991). The syllable-length effect in number processing is task-dependent.Perception & Psychophysics,50, 449–458.Google Scholar
  10. Goldman, H. B., &Healy, A. F. (1985). Detection errors in a task with articulatory suppression: Phonological recoding and reading.Memory & Cognition,13, 463–468.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hanna, P. R., Hanna, J. S., Hodges, R. E., &Rudorf, E. H., Jr. (1966).Phoneme-grapheme correspondences as cues to spelling improvement (Bureau of Research, Office of Education). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  12. Hawkins, H. L., Reicher, G. M., Rogers, M., &Peterson, L. (1976). Flexible coding in word recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,2, 380–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Henderson, L. (1973). Effects of letter-names on visual search.Cognitive Psychology,5, 90–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Henderson, L. (1975). Do words conceal their component letters? A critique of Johnson (1975) on the visual perception of words.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,14, 648–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Humphreys, G. W., &Evett, L. J. (1985). Are there independent lexical and nonlexical routes in word processing? An evaluation of the dual-route theory of reading.Behavioral& Brain Sciences,8, 689–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Johnson, N. F., Allen, P. A., &Strand, T. L. (1989). On the role of word frequency in the detection of component letters.Memory & Cognition,17, 474–482.Google Scholar
  17. Johnston, J. C. (1981). Effects of advance precuing of alternatives on the perception of letters alone and in words.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,7, 560–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Johnston, J. C.,&McClelland, J. L. (1973). Visual factors in word perception.Perception & Psychophysics,14, 365–370.Google Scholar
  19. Krueger, L. E. (1970a). The effect of acoustic confusability on visual search.American Journal of Psychology,83, 389–400.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Krueger, L. E. (1970b). Search time in a redundant visual display.Journal of Experimental Psychology,83, 391–399.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Krueger, L. E. (1970c). Visual comparison in a redundant display.Cognitive Psychology,1, 341–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Krueger, L. E. (1975a). Familiarity effects in visual information processing.Psychological Bulletin,82, 949–974.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krueger, L. E. (1975b). The word-superiority effect: Is its locus visualspatial or verbal?Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,6, 465–468.Google Scholar
  24. Krueger, L. E., &Shapiro, R. G. (1979), Letter detection with rapid serial visual presentation: Evidence against word superiority at featare extraction.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,5, 657–673.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Krueger, L. E., &Stadtlander, L. M. (1991). Detection of letter repetition in words and nonwords: The effect of opposite-case distractors.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,17, 942–950.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kučera, H., &Francis, W. N. (1967).Computational analysis of present-day American English. Providence, RI: Brown University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Massaro, D. W. (1979). Letter information and orthographic context in word perception.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,5, 595–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Massaro, D. W., Venezky, R. L., &Taylor, G. A. (1979). Orthographic regularity, positional frequency, and visual processing of letter strings.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,108, 107–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mayzner, M. S., &Tresselt, M. E. (1965). Tables of single-letter and digram frequency counts for various word-length and letter-position combinations.Psychonomic Monograph Supplements,1, 13–32.Google Scholar
  30. Mayzner, M. S., Tresselt, M. E., &Wolin, B. R. (1965). Tables of trigram frequency counts for various word-length and letter-position combinations.Psychonomic Monograph Supplements,1, 33–78.Google Scholar
  31. McCusker, L. X., Hillinger, M. L., &Bias, R. G. (1981). Phonological recoding and reading.Psychological Bulletin,89, 217–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Prinzmetal, W., Hoffman, H., &Vest, K. (1991). Automatic processes in word perception: An analysis from illusory conjunctions.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,17, 902–923.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Prinzmetal, W., Treiman, R., &Rho, S. H. (1986). How to see a reading unit.Journal of Memory & Language,25, 461–475.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Read, J. D. (1983). Detection of Fs in a Single statement: The role of phonetic recoding.Memory & Cognition,11, 390–399.Google Scholar
  35. Reicher, G. M. (1969). Perceptual recognition as a function of meaningfulness of stimulus material.Journal of Experimental Psychology,81, 275–280.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shulman, H. G., Hornak, R., &Sanders, E. (1978). The effects of graphemic, phonetic, and semantic relationships on access to lexical structures.Memory & Cognition,6, 115–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Singer, M. H. (1980). The primacy of visual information inthe analysis of letter strings.Perception & Psychophysics,27, 153–162.Google Scholar
  38. Spoehr, K. T. (1978). Phonological encoding in visual word recognition.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,17, 127–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Spoehr, K. T., &Smith, E. E. (1973). The role of syllables in perceptual processing.Cognitive Psychology,5, 71–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Thompson, M. C., &Massaro, D. W. (1973). Visual information and redundancy in reading.Journal of Experimental Psychology,98, 49–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Van Orden, O. C., Pennington, B. F., &Stone, G. O. (1990). Word identification in reading and the promise of subsymbolic psycholinguistics.Psychological Review,97, 488–522.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Venezky, R. L., &Massaro, D. W. (1987). Orthographic structure and spelling-sound regularity in reading English words. In A. Allport, D. MacKay, W. Prinz,& E. Scheerer (Eds.),Language perception and production: Shared mechanisms in listening, speaking, reading and writing (pp. 159–179). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyColumbus

Personalised recommendations