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J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013 Sep;68(5):681-90. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbs099. Epub 2012 Nov 15.

Perception-production asymmetries in homophone spelling: the unique influence of aging.

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Department of Psychology, Rhodes College, 2000 N. Parkway, Memphis, TN 38112, USA.



This research investigated three potential asymmetries in the production and perception of homophone spelling errors: aging, homophone dominance, and priming. A homophone spelling error occurs when a contextually appropriate word (beet) is replaced with its homophone (e.g., beat glaze). Two experiments investigated young and older adults' written production and detection of these errors.


Participants wrote sentences (Experiment 1) or detected errors in sentences (Experiment 2) containing a dominant homophone (beat) or subordinate homophone (beet). Homophones were preceded by a prime (neat) that shared orthography with the contextually inappropriate homophone (beat) or by an unrelated control word (fun).


Results revealed an aging asymmetry in production and detection as a function of dominance. Older adults made more errors than young adults when producing dominant homophones but fewer errors in producing subordinate homophones. In contrast, older adults consistently made fewer errors than young adults when detecting homophone errors. Independent of aging, dominance had similar effects on production and detection, with more errors on subordinate homophones. Priming had asymmetric effects different from aging by increasing errors in production but not detection.


These results suggest aging uniquely dissociates perception and production of homophone spelling and demonstrate circumstances under which aging benefits language processing.


Aging; Homophone spelling; Perception-production asymmetry.

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