The cognitive deficits responsible for developmental dyslexia

Review of evidence for a selective visual attentional disorder

Sylviane Valdois*, Marie Line Bosse, Marie Josèphe Tainturier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

223 Citations (Scopus)


There is strong converging evidence suggesting that developmental dyslexia stems from a phonological processing deficit. However, this hypothesis has been challenged by the widely admitted heterogeneity of the dyslexic population, and by several reports of dyslexic individuals with no apparent phonological deficit. In this paper, we discuss the hypothesis that a phonological deficit may not be the only core deficit in developmental dyslexia and critically examine several alternative proposals. To establish that a given cognitive deficit is causally related to dyslexia, at least two conditions need to be fulfilled. First, the hypothesized deficit needs to be associated with developmental dyslexia independently of additional phonological deficits. Second, the hypothesized deficit must predict reading ability, on both empirical and theoretical grounds. While most current hypotheses fail to fulfil these criteria, we argue that the visual attentional deficit hypothesis does. Recent studies providing evidence for the independence of phonological and visual attentional deficits in developmental dyslexia are reviewed together with empirical data showing that phonological and visual attentional processing skills contribute independently to reading performance. A theoretical model of reading is outlined in support of a causal link between a visual attentional disorder and a failure in reading acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-363
Number of pages25
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2004
Externally publishedYes

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