New research article published in the journal Language, Cognition and Neuroscience exploring the impact of illiteracy for the human capacity of segmenting strings into their constituents.
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Abstract: Word processing initially occurs through letter-by-letter parsing at early stages of reading development. Here we investigated the role of literacy in parsing both linguistic and nonlinguistic strings, as well as the consequences of the possible changes brought by the acquisition of reading. Illiterates matched with schooled literates on socio-demographic and cognitive measures were presented with a character search task. Overall, literates performed better than illiterates in identifying constituents in linguistic and non-linguistic strings. Illiterates showed a similar performance for all types of strings. In contrast, literates showed a graded pattern with non-linguistic strings being processed much worse than linguistic strings. These results support domain-specific models of orthographic processing, and they suggest that visual word recognition is not fully parallel to visual object recognition. Most importantly, they demonstrate the impact of literacy on the ability of breaking down a word into its constituents.