On the relations between letter, word, and sentence-level processing during reading


  • Brossette Brice
  • Grainger Jonathan
  • Lété Bernard
  • Dufau Stéphane


  • Human behaviour
  • Visual system
  • Human behaviour

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Much prior research on reading has focused on a specific level of processing, with this often being letters, words, or sentences. Here, for the first time in adult readers, we provide a combined investigation of these three key component processes of reading comprehension. We did so by testing the same group of participants in three tasks thought to reflect processing at each of these levels: alphabetic decision, lexical decision, and grammatical decision. Participants also performed a non-reading classification task, with an aim to partial-out common binary decision processes from the correlations across the three main tasks. We examined the pairwise partial correlations for response times (RTs) in the three reading tasks. The results revealed strong significant correlations across adjacent levels of processing (i.e., letter-word; word-sentence) and a non-significant correlation between non-adjacent levels (letter-sentence). The results provide an important new benchmark for evaluating computational models that describe how letters, words, and sentences contribute to reading comprehension.

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