Can I Order a Burger at rnacdonalds.com? Visual Similarity Effects of Multi-Letter Combinations at the Early Stages of Word Recognition

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Abstract

Previous research has shown that early in the word recognition process, there is some degree of uncertainty concerning letter identity and letter position. Here, we examined whether this uncertainty also extends to the mapping of letter features onto letters, as predicted by the Bayesian Reader (Norris & Kinoshita, 2012). Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that nonwords containing multi-letter homoglyphs (e.g., rn→m), such as docurnent, can be confusable with their base word. We conducted 2 masked priming lexical decision experiments in which the words/nonwords contained a middle letter that was visually similar to a multi-letter homoglyph (e.g., docurnent [rn–m], presiclent [cl–d]). Three types of primes were employed: identity, multi-letter homoglyph, and orthographic control. We used 2 commonly used fonts: Tahoma in Experiment 1 and Calibri in Experiment 2. Results in both experiments showed faster word identification times in the homoglyph condition than in the control condition (e.g., docurnento–DOCUMENTO faster than docusnento–DOCUMENTO). Furthermore, the homoglyph condition produced nearly the same latencies as the identity condition. These findings have important implications not only at a theoretical level (models of printed word recognition) but also at an applied level (Internet administrators/users).

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