Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Skilled reading can be partly understood as a set- of interrelated component processes (Perfetti & Lesgold, 1979). The efficiency with which any one of these component pro cesses operates could limit or improve the efficient opera tion of the other component processes. However, there is some controversy over which of these component processes are important in showing differences in overall reading ability. The processes of interest in this study are those at the perceptual level. The purpose of the existing study was to examine the relationship between perceptual processes involved in reading and individual differences in reading ability among college students. Specifically, the present study assessed whether skilled readers utilized more effectively compared to less skilled readers such perceptual factors as spatial re dundancy when tachistoscopicly presented four-letter words. Furthermore, the words were presented at four different rates in order to examine whether certain perceptual factors affect the speed of verbal encoding when performing perceptual tasks.

Thirty-four highly skilled and 36 less skilled college readers were rated on the basis of their scores on a standard ized reading test. They were then divided into groups per forming one of three perceptual tasks: item location (where a letter appeared in the word), item identification (what the letter is,- at a specific letter position in the word), or a combination of the two tasks (both item location and identi fication).

Subjects viewed 128 words, 32 at each presentation rate. Subjects responded after each word was presented.

The proportion of errors in responding to the words was computed. A 2 (Ability) x 3 (Condition) x 4 (Exposure Dura tion) x 2 (Spatial Redundancy) x 4 (Serial Position) ANOYA was computed on this data. Standard significant main effects of duration, spatial redundancy, and serial position were found along with a condition x duration and a spatial redund ancy x serial position interaction.

More importantly, a significant ability x duration x spatial redundancy x serial position interaction was observed. This may reflect qualitative differences in the nature in which good and poor readers process words. Good readers did not seem to utilize such factors as spatial redundancy in processing order more than poor readers since a significant ability x condition x spatial redundancy interaction was not found. In addition, it was expected that the condition com bining both item location and identification would be more difficult than either of the other two tasks. However, this condition showed smaller errors rates suggesting that a combination of the two processes augmented the efficiency of feature extraction.

The primary result of the present study was that reading ability differences were found in processing at the perceptual level. If reading ability differences exist at the perceptual level, such as in encoding item location (Mason, 1980; Mason et*:al., 1981), then it follows that this may limit the efficiency of later components of word recognition. A more extensive manipulation of reader ability and perceptual tasks may help elucidate the viability of this interpretation.