When does less yield more? The impact of severity upon implicit recognition in pure alexia

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    Pure alexia (PA) is characterised by strong effects of word length on reading times and is sometimes accompanied by an overt letter-by-letter (LBL) reading strategy. Past studies have reported " implicit recognition" in some individual PA patients. This is a striking finding because such patients are able to perform semantic classification and lexical decision at above chance levels even when the exposure duration is short enough to prevent explicit identification. In an attempt to determine the prevalence of this " implicit recognition" effect, we assessed semantic categorisation and lexical decision performance using limited exposure durations in 10 PA cases. The majority of the patients showed above chance accuracy in semantic categorisation and lexical decision. Performance on the lexical decision test was influenced by frequency and imageability. In addition, we found that the extent to which patients showed evidence of " implicit recognition" in both tasks was inversely related to the severity of their reading disorder. This result is consistent with hypotheses which suggest that this effect does not constitute an implicit form of unique word identification but is a reflection of the degree of partial activation within the word recognition system. These results also go some way towards explaining the individual variation in the presence of this effect observed across previous case-study investigations in the literature. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2437-2446
    Number of pages9
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010


    • Frequency
    • Imageability
    • Implicit recognition
    • Letter-by-letter reading
    • Pure alexia


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