In three experiments, subjects read prose passages and circled misspellings in them. The misspelled words were created by replacing a single letter with another one. The visual similarity between the correct letter and the one that was substituted for it increased the percentage of proofreading errors. The results suggest that proofreaders search through a visual representation of the text and that a hierarchical feature test is applied to this representation, according to which subjects give first priority to resolving letter envelope and second priority to discriminating additional visual features. A sophisticated-guessing decision rule is also implicated for the misspellings that do not alter letter envelope: Subjects are tolerant of missing letter features but are intolerant of additional features.
Aronson, E.The social animal. San Francisco: Freeman, 1972.
Broadbent, D. E. Word-frequency effect and response bias.Psychological Review, 1967,74, 1–15.
Bouma, H. Visual recognition of isolated lower-case letters.Vision Research, 1971,11, 459–474.
Bouwhuis, D., &Bouma, H. Visual word recognition of three-letter words as derived from the recognition of the constituent letters.Perception & Psychophysics, 1979,25, 12–22.
Cohen, G. Reading and searching for spelling errors. In U. Frith (Ed.),Cognitive processes in spelling. London: Academic Press, 1980.
Corconran, D. W. J. An acoustic factor in letter cancellation.Nature, 1966,210, 658.
Corcoran, D. W. J. Acoustic factor in proof reading.Nature, 1967,214, 851–852.
Corcoran, D. W. J., &Weening, D. L. Acoustic factors in visual search.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1968,20, 83–85.
Garner, W. R., &Haun, F. Letter identification as a function of type of perceptual limitation and type of attribute.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1978,4, 199–209.
Gilmore, G. C., Hersh, H., CARAMAZZA, A., &GRIFFIN, J. Multidimensional letter similarity derived from recognition errors.Perception & Psychophysics, 1979,25, 425–431.
Haber, R. N., &Schindler, R. M. Error in proofreading: Evidence of syntactic control of letter processing?Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1981,7, 573–579.
Healy, A. F. Proofreading errors on the word the: New evidence on reading units.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 1980,6, 45–57.
Holbrook.M. B. Effect of subjective interletter similarity, perceived word similarity, and contextual variables on the recognition of letter substitutions in a proofreading task.Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1978,47, 251–258.
Kučera, H., &Francis, W. N.Computational analysis of present-day American English. Providence, R.I: Brown University Press, 1967.
Lindsay, P. H., &Norman, D. A.Human information processing: An introduction to psychology (2nd ed.). New York: Academic Press, 1977.
Lupker, S. J. On the nature of perceptual information during letter perception.Perception & Psychology, 1979,25, 303–312.
MacKay, D. G. Phonetic factors in the perception and recall of spelling errors. Neuropsychologia, 1968,6, 321–325.
Massaro, D. W., &Schmuller, J. Visual features, preperceptual storage, and processing time in reading. In D. W. Massaro (Ed.),Understanding language: An information processing analysis of speech perception, reading, and psycholinguistics. New York: Academic Press, 1975.
Mayzner, M. S., &Tresselt, M. E. Tables of single-letter and digram frequency counts for various word-length and letter-position combinations.Psychonomic Monograph Supplements, 1965,1, 13–32.
Miller, G. A. Nonverbal communication. In G. A. Miller (Ed.),Communication, language, and meaning.: Psychological perspectives. New York: Basic Books, 1973.
Podgorny, P., &Garner, W. R. Reaction time as a measure of inter- and intraobject visual similarity: Letters of the alphabet.Perception & Psychophysics, 1979,26, 37–52.
Rumelhart, D. E., &Siple, P. Process of recognizing tachistoscopically presented words.Psychological Review, 1974,81, 99–113.
Townsend, J. T. Theoretical analysis of an alphabetic confusion matrix.Perception & Psychophysics, 1971,9, 40–50.
Tversky, A. Features of similarity.Psychological Review, 1977,84, 327–352.
This research was supported in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation to Yale University, NSF Grants BNS 77-00077 and BNS 80-00263 to Yale University and BNS 80-25020 to the University of Colorado, NICHD Grant HD01994 to Haskins Laboratories, and BRS Grant RR05596 to Haskins Laboratories.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Healy, A.F. The effects of visual similarity on proofreading for misspellings. Mem Cogn 9, 453–460 (1981). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03202339
- Visual Similarity
- Letter Pair
- Visual Factor
- Prose Passage
- Correct Letter