Phonological decoding or direct access? Regularity effects in lexical decisions of Grade 3 and 4 children

Xenia Schmalz*, Eva Marinus, Anne Castles

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Learning to read fluently involves moving from an effortful phonological decoding strategy to automatic recognition of familiar words. However, little is known about the timing of this transition, or the extent to which children continue to be influenced by phonological factors when recognizing words even as they progress in reading. We explored this question by examining regularity effects in a lexical decision task, as opposed to the more traditionally used reading-aloud task. Children in Grades 3 and 4 made go/no-go lexical decisions on high- and low-frequency regular and irregular words that had been matched for consistency. The children showed regularity effects in their accuracy for low-frequency words, indicating that they were using phonological decoding strategies to recognize unfamiliar words. The size of this effect was correlated with measures of reading ability. However, we found no regularity effects on accuracy for high-frequency words or on response times for either word type, suggesting that even 8-year-old children are already relying predominantly on a direct lexical strategy in their silent reading of familiar words.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-346
Number of pages9
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


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