The nature and specificity of paired associate learning deficits in children with dyslexia

Robin A. Litt*, Kate Nation

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


We report three experiments investigating the specificity and nature of paired associate learning (PAL) deficits in children with dyslexia. Experiments 1 and 2 compared children with dyslexia and age-matched controls across the following stimulus-response mapping conditions, designed to dissociate crossmodal and verbal demands: visual-verbal, verbal-verbal, visual-visual, and verbal-visual. Children with dyslexia exhibited deficits in visual-verbal and verbal-verbal PAL only. Experiment 3 investigated the stage of learning in which PAL deficits arise by separating the verbal learning and associative learning components of a visual-verbal PAL task. Results revealed an item-specific relationship between phonological form learning and later associative learning success. Visual-verbal PAL deficits were fully accounted for by the preceding deficit in phonological form learning. Together, our results show that PAL deficits in dyslexia are not a consequence of difficulties with associative learning; instead, they are best characterized as deficits in phonological form learning. The implications of these findings for theories of reading development and dyslexia are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-88
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Dyslexia
  • Paired associate learning
  • Phonological deficit
  • Reading


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