Speech perception and memory coding in relation to reading ability

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Previous work has demonstrated that children who are poor readers have short-term memory deficits in tasks in which the stimuli lend themselves to phonetic coding. The aim of the present study was to explore whether the poor readers' memory dificit may have its origin in perception with the encoding of the stimuli. Three experiments were conducted with third grade good and poor readers. As in earlier experiments, the poor readers were found to perform less well on recall of random word strings and to be less affected by the phonetic characteristics (rhyming or not rhyming) of the items (Experiment 1). In addition, the poor readers produced more errors of transposition (in the nonrhyming strings) than did the good readers, a further indication of the poor readers' problems with memory for order. The subjects were tested on two auditory perception tasks, one employing words (Experiment 2) and the other nonspeech environmental sounds (Experiment 3). Each was presented under two conditions: with a favorable signal-to-noise ratio and with masking. The poor readers made significantly more errors than the good readers when listening to speech in noise, but did not differ in perception of speech without noise or in perception of nonspeech environmental sounds, whether noise-masked or not. Together, the results of the perception studies suggest that poor readers have a perceptual difficulty that is specific to speech. It is suggested that the short-term memory deficits characteristic of poor readers may stem from material-specific problems of perceptual processing. © 1983 Academic Press, Inc.

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Journal of Experimental Child Psychology