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The Missing-Letter Effect: A Window on the Development of First and Second Language Reading Skills


Project Leader
Saint-Aubin, Jean   

Suppose you ask your friend to perform the following dual-task: read a paragraph while marking with a pencil all the ts. You will most likely find that he or she will miss many more of the target letters when they are embedded in the frequent function word 'the' than in frequent content words like top, ten, etc. This robust finding has been called the missing-letter effect and the many studies conducted to explain it point to its value as a window on the mental processes that are at the foundation of reading, one of the most complex and important skills contributed by human civilization. Network Investigators propose to conduct developmental and bilingual studies of the missing-letter effect, because they are convinced that by doing so they will acquire valuable information to help us understand why some children have difficulty acquiring this all-important skill. Over the last two decades, the investigation of reading processes has benefited from an intense theoretical and empirical activity centered around a simple empirical phenomenon: the missing-letter effect (MLE). This effect has turned out to be one of the most robust in the reading literature. However, until now, efforts devoted to investigating adults' reading processes through the MLE have not been mirrored by similar efforts in understanding the development of those processes. This is an important gap given no serious model of reading can ignore the development of reading ability. The main goal of this research program is to address this issue through a series of integrated experiments. More specifically, this two-year research program is aimed at: (1) clarifying the development of the reading processes captured by the MLE; (2) studying the impact of bilingualism on these reading processes; (3) investigating the interplay between the cognitive processes involved in reading and the associated pattern of eye-movements, and (4) exploring the possibility of using the MLE in the assessment and prediction of reading deficits.

LAST MODIFIED: February 06 2004 13:25:35

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