Individual differences in visual comprehension of morphological complexity

Abstract

This paper explores individual variability in processing morphological complexity. We examined the eye-movement record that 71 readers showed during reading of suffixed words (truck+er): the readers also took part in a battery of 17 verbal skill tests. Statistical analyses revealed that an individual's ability to segment words and level of reading comprehension shifted the balance between the whole-word recognition route and its recognition via decomposed morphemes. Effects of whole-word frequency and base morpheme frequency were observed in both good and poor readers, yet their qualitative nature varied by skill. Good readers suffered from lexical competition between whole-words (trucker) and base morphemes (truck), while poor readers received a recognition boost from base words. We discuss these interactions in the context of computational models of morphological processing and argue that readers engage sources of morphological information strategically, depending on the quality of representations for both the complex words and their morphemes.


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