When a ROWS is a ROSE: phonological effects in written word comprehension

Veronika Coltheart, Karalyn Patterson, Judi Leahy

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    72 Citations (Scopus)


    When skilled readers make speeded categorization judgements about printed words, errors occur to homophones of real category exemplars. In Experiments 1 and 2, for example, subjects incorrectly accepted both the word STEAL (as a member of the category A METAL) and the nonword JEAP (as A VEHICLE) significantly more often than incorrect non-homophonic items matched in orthographic similarity to real exemplars. Experiment 3 demonstrated equivalent error rates for homophone targets differing from real exemplars by various types of single-letter change, but reduced error rates, especially for non-word homophones, when subjects were instructed to accept only correctly spelled instances. Experiments 4 and 5 established that the magnitude of the homophone effect is predicted by the degree of orthographic similarity between homophonic mates but not by spelling-sound regularity of the presented homophone. The results suggest that automatic phonological activation plays a major role in the comprehension of written words.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)917-955
    Number of pages39
    JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1994


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