The effects of input modality, word difficulty and reading experience on word recognition accuracy

Wolf, M. C., Meyer, A. S., Rowland, C. F., & Hintz, F. (2021). The effects of input modality, word difficulty and reading experience on word recognition accuracy. Collabra: Psychology, 7(1): 24919. doi:10.1525/collabra.24919.
Language users encounter words in at least two different modalities. Arguably, the most frequent encounters are in spoken or written form. Previous research has shown that – compared to the spoken modality – written language features more difficult words. Thus, frequent reading might have effects on word recognition. In the present study, we investigated 1) whether input modality (spoken, written, or bimodal) has an effect on word recognition accuracy, 2) whether this modality effect interacts with word difficulty, 3) whether the interaction of word difficulty and reading experience impacts word recognition accuracy, and 4) whether this interaction is influenced by input modality. To do so, we re-analysed a dataset that was collected in the context of a vocabulary test development to assess in which modality test words should be presented. Participants had carried out a word recognition task, where non-words and words of varying difficulty were presented in auditory, visual and audio-visual modalities. In addition to this main experiment, participants had completed a receptive vocabulary and an author recognition test to measure their reading experience. Our re-analyses did not reveal evidence for an effect of input modality on word recognition accuracy, nor for interactions with word difficulty or language experience. Word difficulty interacted with reading experience in that frequent readers were more accurate in recognizing difficult words than individuals who read less frequently. Practical implications are discussed.
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