A Learning Perspective on Individual Differences in Skilled Reading: Exploring and Exploiting Orthographic and Semantic Discrimination Cues

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Abstract

The goal of the present study is to understand the role orthographic and semantic information play in the behavior of skilled readers. Reading latencies from a self-paced sentence reading experiment in which Russian near-synonymous verbs were manipulated appear well-predicted by a combination of bottom-up sublexical letter triplets (trigraphs) and top-down semantic generalizations, modeled using the Naive Discrimination Learner. The results reveal a complex interplay of bottom-up and top-down support from orthography and semantics to the target verbs, whereby activations from orthography only are modulated by individual differences. Using performance on a serial reaction time (SRT) task for a novel operationalization of the mental speed hypothesis, we explain the observed individual differences in reading behavior in terms of the exploration/exploitation hypothesis from reinforcement learning, where initially slower and more variable behavior leads to better performance overall.

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