Snellings, P. , de Haas, I. , van den Wildenberg, W. & van der Molen, M.
University of Amsterdam
Proficient readers are not only fast readers but also read relatively fluent and automatic. Fluent reading seems especially hard to accomplish for dyslexic readers. Understanding normal development may provide essential insights into the specific deficits involved in dyslexia. This study tracked the development of word recognition to determine when fast word recognition becomes automatic word recognition. We predicted proficient readers? accuracy and speed during word recognition to be relatively immune to facilitation and interference of a secondary auditory stimulus (small Simon effect). In contrast, we predicted two less proficient groups to respond faster and more accurate during facilitation than during interference (larger Simon effects), suggesting higher attention demands. We tested 108 children in Grades 2, 3 and 4 with a lexical decision task combined with a Simon task. During lexical decision an auditory stimulus was presented either in the ear congruent to the response hand (Facilitation condition) or the incongruent ear (Interference condition) or in both ears (Control condition). For words, Simon effects on speed were smaller for proficient than for the least proficient readers yet not different from the less proficient group of readers early on in the process. For nonwords, Simon effects on speed were smaller for proficient readers than the other two groups. For both words and nonwords, Simon effects on accuracy were smaller for proficient readers than for less proficient or the least proficient readers. Proficient readers are not only faster but also more automatic than the least proficient readers. Simon effects on speed suggested that less proficient readers were also automatic word readers. However, Simon effects on accuracy indicated otherwise. In sum, during reading development some fast reading entails automaticity but not all fast reading.