Whole-word shape effect in dyslexia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The research question here was whether whole-word shape cues might facilitate reading in dyslexia following reports of how normal-reading children benefit from using this cue when learning to read. We predicted that adults with dyslexia would tend to rely more on orthographic rather than other cues when reading, and therefore would be more affected by word shape manipulations. This prediction was tested in a lexical decision task on words with a flat or a non-flat outline (i.e. without or with letters with ascending/descending features). We found that readers with dyslexia were significantly faster when reading non-flat compared with flat words, while typical readers did not benefit from whole-word shape cues. The interaction of participants' group and word shape was not modulated by word frequency; that is word outline shape facilitated reading for both rare and frequent words. Our results suggest that enhanced sensitivity to orthographic cues is developed in some cases of dyslexia when normal, phonology-based word recognition processing is not exploited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-454
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Reading
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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