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Q J Exp Psychol A. 2003 Apr;56(3):445-67.

How does orthographic knowledge influence performance on phonological awareness tasks?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Melbourne, VIC, Australia.


Three experiments explored the nature of orthographic influences on performance on phonological awareness tasks. Experiment 1 demonstrated that adults find it easier to perform phoneme deletions on items where there is a direct correspondence between letters and target sounds (e.g., take the /r[se text]/ from struggle) than where there is not (e.g., take the /w[see text]/ from squabble). Analogous results were found in a phoneme reversal task. Spelling production ability tended to correlate more strongly with performance on the former type of item than on the latter, suggesting that elevated performance on phonological awareness tasks is associated with the use of orthographic information. Experiment 2 produced similar results in Grade 5 children. Experiment 3 suggested that adults cannot inhibit orthographic activation when it is disadvantageous to them, as they performed no better on items such as squabble when they were presented in pure blocks than when they were presented in mixed blocks. It is concluded that there are substantial automatic orthographic influences on phonological awareness task performance that need to be taken into account in interpreting data concerning the relationship between phonological awareness and reading.

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