A training study using an artificial orthography: Effects of reading experience, lexical quality, and text comprehension in L1 and L2
Text comprehension in adults is correlated with a number of other abilities including working memory span, inference making, and reading experience. There are fewer studies reporting correlations between lexical and sublexical skill and comprehension skill in adults. Comprehension skill in adults may constitute (1) a basic comprehension skill, like lexical skill, that drives the ability to construct representations of text and analyze them; (2) a more sensitive measure of lexical skill, for which it is difficult to measure sufficient variability in competent readers; or (3) a learned skill, derived from an individual’s reading experience. Reading a greater quantity and more varied texts increases the size of the knowledge base, the efficiency with which information can be accessed, the likelihood that effective reading strategies will be developed, and with these the enjoyment of reading and the desire to read more. These possibilities are explored in this experiment.We developed sensitive tests of lexical skill and measured comprehension skill and lexical skill using multiple tests in a large number of college students. In order to determine the effect of lexical skill on comprehension skill we divided participants into groups based on both variables in a two by two design. Using an artificial orthography allowed us to control reading experience.Patterns of responses to homophones and nonhomophones and to high and low frequency words indicate that differences in lexical skill affect not only the extent and time course of lexical activation but also the direction of the effect. There is some evidence for an interaction with comprehension ability.Lexical skill affected speed of learning and degree of learning success. Comprehension skill affected the ability to use the artificial orthography in other tasks, including ERP tasks. Effects were not mediated by working memory, inferencing, or lexical skill, suggesting the influence of a basic comprehension skill and an ability to assess the needs of new tasks and adapt their performance appropriately. Both lexical and comprehension skill affected performance on tasks in English, suggesting an influence of reading experience.