Banai, K. & Yifat, R.
University of Haifa
The role of domain general factors in the development of oral and written language in the preschool years is not well understood, but neuroconstructivist approaches to cognitive development suggest that the contribution of domain-general factors should be more salient prior to the acquisition of domain-specific knowledge in each domain. We have previously shown that anchoring, defined as the ability to implicitly use contextual information to facilitate perception, significantly contributes to rapid naming and phonological memory skills of preschool children. Furthermore, anchoring in those two tasks accounts for significant variance in indices of early reading (letter knowledge and phonological awareness). In the current study the hypothesis that anchoring is a domain general process was tested. To that end, the effects of anchoring were estimated in both a verbal task (phonological awareness) and a non-verbal task (visual size identification). Anchoring effects were evident in both cases. In the verbal task, children identified the initial sounds of words more accurately if all words on the list shared the same word form, thus affording anchoring, than in a condition in which words had different word forms. Likewise, in the visual task, children were faster to identify large shapes when the variety of shapes presented in a series was small than in a condition with a larger variety of shapes, even though shape identity was task irrelevant. The magnitude of the anchoring effects was correlated between the verbal and visual tasks. Furthermore, anchoring in the visual, non-verbal task accounted for unique variance in language tasks (phonological awareness and vocabulary). In conclusion, anchoring appears to be a domain general factor that contributes to both oral language and early reading in the preschool years. Whether the contribution of anchoring diminishes once domain-specific reading-related knowledge is acquired remains to be determined in future studies.