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Is there a cost at encoding words with joined letters during visual word recognition?

Abstract

For simplicity, models of visual-word recognition have focused on printed words composed of separated letters, thus overlooking the processing of cursive words. Manso de Zuniga, Humphreys, and Evett (1991) claimed that there is an early “cursive normalization” encoding stage when processing written words with joined letters. To test this claim, we conducted a lexical decision experiment in which words were presented either with separated or joined letters. To examine if the cost of letter segmentation occurs early in processing, we also manipulated a factor (i.e., word-frequency) that is posited to affect subsequent lexical processing. Results showed faster response times for the words composed of separated letters than for the words composed of joined letters. This effect occurred similarly for low- and high-frequency words. Thus, the present data offer some empirical support to Manso de Zuniga et al.’s (1991) idea of an early “cursive normalization” stage when processing joined-letters words. This pattern of data can be used to constrain the mapping of the visual input into letter and word units in future versions of models of visual word recognition.

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