Neighborhood Effects in Reading Aloud: New Findings and New Challenges for Computational Models

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A word from a dense neighborhood is often read aloud faster than a word from a sparse neighborhood. This advantage is usually attributed to orthography, but orthographic and phonological neighbors are typically confounded. Two experiments investigated the effect of neighborhood density on reading aloud when phonological density was varied while orthographic density was held constant, and vice versa. A phonological neighborhood effect was observed, but not an orthographic one. These results are inconsistent with the predominant role ascribed to orthographic neighbors in accounts of visual word recognition and reading aloud. Consistent with this interpretation, 6 different computational models of reading aloud failed to simulate this pattern of results. The results of the present experiments thus provide a new understanding of some of the processes underlying reading aloud, and new challenges for computational models.

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