Merel Wolf


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  • Wolf, M. C., Smith, A. C., Meyer, A. S., & Rowland, C. F. (2019). Modality effects in vocabulary acquisition. In A. K. Goel, C. M. Seifert, & C. Freksa (Eds.), Proceedings of the 41st Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2019) (pp. 1212-1218). Montreal, QB: Cognitive Science Society.


    It is unknown whether modality affects the efficiency with which humans learn novel word forms and their meanings, with previous studies reporting both written and auditory advantages. The current study implements controls whose absence in previous work likely offers explanation for such contradictory findings. In two novel word learning experiments, participants were trained and tested on pseudoword - novel object pairs, with controls on: modality of test, modality of meaning, duration of exposure and transparency of word form. In both experiments word forms were presented in either their written or spoken form, each paired with a pictorial meaning (novel object). Following a 20-minute filler task, participants were tested on their ability to identify the picture-word form pairs on which they were trained. A between subjects design generated four participant groups per experiment 1) written training, written test; 2) written training, spoken test; 3) spoken training, written test; 4) spoken training, spoken test. In Experiment 1 the written stimulus was presented for a time period equal to the duration of the spoken form. Results showed that when the duration of exposure was equal, participants displayed a written training benefit. Given words can be read faster than the time taken for the spoken form to unfold, in Experiment 2 the written form was presented for 300 ms, sufficient time to read the word yet 65% shorter than the duration of the spoken form. No modality effect was observed under these conditions, when exposure to the word form was equivalent. These results demonstrate, at least for proficient readers, that when exposure to the word form is controlled across modalities the efficiency with which word form-meaning associations are learnt does not differ. Our results therefore suggest that, although we typically begin as aural-only word learners, we ultimately converge on developing learning mechanisms that learn equally efficiently from both written and spoken materials.
  • Wolf, M. C., Muijselaar, M. M. L., Boonstra, A. M., & De Bree, E. H. (2019). The relationship between reading and listening comprehension: Shared and modality-specific components. Reading and Writing, 32(7), 1747-1767. doi:10.1007/s11145-018-9924-8.


    This study aimed to increase our understanding on the relationship between reading and listening comprehension. Both in comprehension theory and in educational practice, reading and listening comprehension are often seen as interchangeable, overlooking modality-specific aspects of them separately. Three questions were addressed. First, it was examined to what extent reading and listening comprehension comprise modality-specific, distinct skills or an overlapping, domain-general skill in terms of the amount of explained variance in one comprehension type by the opposite comprehension type. Second, general and modality-unique subskills of reading and listening comprehension were sought by assessing the contributions of the foundational skills word reading fluency, vocabulary, memory, attention, and inhibition to both comprehension types. Lastly, the practice of using either listening comprehension or vocabulary as a proxy of general comprehension was investigated. Reading and listening comprehension tasks with the same format were assessed in 85 second and third grade children. Analyses revealed that reading comprehension explained 34% of the variance in listening comprehension, and listening comprehension 40% of reading comprehension. Vocabulary and word reading fluency were found to be shared contributors to both reading and listening comprehension. None of the other cognitive skills contributed significantly to reading or listening comprehension. These results indicate that only part of the comprehension process is indeed domain-general and not influenced by the modality in which the information is provided. Especially vocabulary seems to play a large role in this domain-general part. The findings warrant a more prominent focus of modality-specific aspects of both reading and listening comprehension in research and education.
  • Wolf, M. C. (2015). Het verschil tussen hardop en stillezen wat betreft leessnelheid en tekstbegrip en de invloed hierop van fonologisch bewustzijn, benoemsnelheid en visuele aandachtsspanne. Student Undergraduate Research E-journal, 1(1), 261-264. Retrieved from


    In het onderwijs wordt aangenomen dat hardop en stillezen dezelfde processen zijn. In dit onderzoek wordt gekeken naar het verschil tussen hardop en stillezen wat betreft leessnelheid en tekstbegrip bij 90 kinderen uit groep 4. Ook wordt de invloed van de cognitieve vaardigheden fonologisch bewustzijn, benoemsnelheid en visuele aandachtsspanne op de verschillende leesmodi onderzocht. De participanten lazen stil sneller, maar begrepen de tekst beter hardop. De cognitieve vaardigheden correleerden met hardop en stillezen wat betreft leessnelheid, maar hingen in beide leesmodi niet samen met tekstbegrip. Hoewel hardop en stillezen samenhangen, onderstrepen deze bevindingen dat het verschillende leesmodi zijn.

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