Who are the noisiest neighbors in the hood? Using error analyses to study the acquisition of letter-position processing

Eva Marinus*, Yvette Kezilas, Saskia Kohnen, Serje Robidoux, Anne Castles

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    This research examines the acquisition of letter-position processing. Study 1 investigated letter-position processing in Grades 1-6 and adult readers, using the occurrence of specific error types as the outcome measure. Between Grades 1 and 2, there was a shift from making more other-word to making more letter-position errors. This shift was a function of reading proficiency, not of years of reading instruction. Based on the multiple-route model of reading development (Grainger, Lété, Bertand, Dufau, & Ziegler, 2012), we argue that the fact that children make fewer other-word errors (i.e., mostly letter-identity errors) opens up the opportunity for them to make "the more advanced" letter-position errors. Finally, skilled adult readers still made fewer letter-position errors than typical readers in Grade 6, suggesting that the acquisition process is not finalized by the end of primary school. In Study 2, we directly compared letter-position processing with letter-identity processing. Thirty children in Grade 3 and 30 children in Grade 4 read aloud words with and without higher-frequency distractors. Children more often misread a word with a higher-frequency distractor than without such a distractor and this effect was stronger for below-average than for above-average readers. Converging with the results of Study 1, we found that a letter-position distractor is more disruptive than a letter-identity distractor. These results confirm that the acquisition of letter-position processing lags behind of that of letter-identity processing. The results are discussed within the framework of the Lexical Tuning Hypothesis (Castles, Davis, Cavalot, & Forster, 2007), which stresses the importance of feedback between letter (identity and position) coding and (developing) orthographic representations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1384-1396
    Number of pages13
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
    Issue number9
    Early online date5 Apr 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


    • reading development
    • reading performance
    • letter-position processing
    • letter-identity processing
    • error analyses


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