Effects of word imageability and age of acquisition on children's reading

Veronika Coltheart*, Veronica J. Laxon, Corriene Keating

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Citations (Scopus)


Research on children's reading has shown that words high in imageability are easier to read than words low in imageability. It has been suggested that this occurs because low imageability words are acquired later in life than are high imageability words. The effects of age of acquisition and imageability were studied in two reading tasks. In Expt 1, nine‐year‐old children had to read aloud words differing in age of acquisition (but matched for imageability, length and frequency). A highly significant effect of age of acquisition on reading accuracy was obtained. The children also had to read aloud words differing in imageability (but matched for age of acquisition, length and frequency). Although imageability affected accuracy, the difference in high and low imageability words was significant only for the poorer readers in the sample. Thus, it appears that age of acquisition of words is a major determinant of reading accuracy and that the imageability effect is attributable to this variable, except for poor readers, who do show a genuine effect of imageability upon reading accuracy. In Expt 2 adult naming latencies were obtained for the same tasks. These latencies were significantly lower for acquired words early than for words acquired later. Word imageability did not affect adult naming latencies. 1988 The British Psychological Society

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


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