Letter migration errors reflect spatial pooling of orthographic information


  • Vandendaele Aaron
  • Snell Joshua
  • Grainger Jonathan

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Prior research has shown that readers may misread words by switching letters across words (e.g., the word sand in sand lane being recognized as land). These so-called letter migration errors have been observed using a divided attention paradigm whereby two words are briefly presented simultaneously, and one is postcued for identification. Letter migrations might therefore be due to a task-induced division of attention across the two words. Here, we show that a similar rate of migration errors is obtained in a flanker paradigm in which a central target word is flanked to the left and to the right by task-irrelevant flanking words. Three words were simultaneously presented for the same brief duration. Asked to type the target word postoffset, participants produced more migration errors when the migrating letter occupied the same position in the flanker and target words, with significantly fewer migrations occurring across adjacent positions, and the effect disappearing across nonadjacent positions. Our results provide further support for the hypothesis that orthographic information spanning multiple words is processed in parallel and spatially integrated (pooled) within a single channel. It is the spatial pooling of sublexical orthographic information that is thought to drive letter migration errors.

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