Skip to main content

Quick, automatic, and general activation of orthographic and phonological representations in young readers


Booth JRJ R , Perfetti CAC A , MacWhinney BB . Developmental psychology. 1999 ; 35(1). 3-19


Second through 6th graders were presented with nonword primes (orthographic, pseudohomophone, and control) and target words displayed for durations (30 and 60 ms) that were brief enough to prevent complete processing. Word reading skills were assessed by 3 word and nonword naming tasks. Good readers exhibited more orthographic priming than poor readers at both durations and more pseudohomophone priming at the short duration only. This suggests that good readers activate letter and phonemic information more efficiently than poor readers. Good readers also exhibited an equal amount of priming at both durations, whereas poor readers showed greater priming at the longer duration. This suggests that activation was not under strategic control. Finally, priming was reliable for both high- and low-frequency targets. This suggests that readers activate consistent information regardless of target word characteristics. Thus, quick, automatic, and general activation of orthographic and phonological information in skilled readers results from the precision and redundancy of their lexical representations.