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