There is a great deal of evidence which suggests that readers determine the phonological representation of a word early during visual word recognition (Pollatsek, Lesch, Morris, & Rayner, 1992), and that a word's phonological code is maintained in working memory during sentence reading (Folk & Morris, 1995). However it is unclear whether the phonological code used for a word's identification is also the code used in working memory storage. The current study used a novel experimental method, the contingent speech technique (Inhoff, Connine, & Radach, 2002), to examine this issue.
Eye movements are used to trigger the presentation of a spoken word when the eyes reach a particular spatial location. In Inhoff, Connine, Eiter, Radach & Heller (in press) readers spent more time reading two words following the target when the spoken word was phonologically similar than when it was dissimilar. Presumably this occurred because the coactive phonological forms that developed on the basis of the visual and auditory stimuli interfered with each other in phonological working memory thus hampering post-target reading. Interestingly, there was no similarity interference during the reading of the visual target itself. Articulation of the spoken word was relatively time consuming, and the prelexical phonological code of the visual target had been determined before a functional segment of the spoken word was articulated.
The current study created experimental conditions in which a substantial segment of a phonologically similar and dissimilar companion word was articulated before a visual target was read. An identical condition, in which the articulated word and the target denoted the same word was used as baseline. Under these conditions, the similar spoken word was expected to interfere with both target and post-target reading if a unitary phonological code was functional in target recognition and used later in the target's working memory storage. In the experiment, the spoken companion word was presented either 10 character spaces before the eyes reached the target (the before condition) or immediately after the target was read (after condition). The spoken word was identical, phonologically similar, or dissimilar to the visual target. In the before condition, target viewing durations (gaze durations) were shorter for identical auditory companion words in comparison to phonologically similar and dissimilar companions, and the effects for similar and dissimilar companions did not differ. The similar and dissimilar spoken word interfered with target reading, relative to the after condition. The identical condition yielded a small but not reliable benefit in target word gaze duration. Irrespective of when the spoken word was presented, reading was impeded only for post target words in the phonologically similar condition. This pattern of results suggests that the phonological code used for visual word recognition is functionally specific, i.e., that distinct types of phonological code are used for visual word recognition and for the word's representation in working memory after it has been identified.
Folk, J. R., & Morris, R. K. (1995). The use of multiple lexical codes in reading: Evidence from eye movements, naming time, and oral reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21, 1421-1429.
Inhoff, A., Connine, C., Eiter, B., Radach, R., & Heller, D. (in press). The phonological representation of words after their fixation during sentence reading. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.
Inhoff, A. W., Connine, C. & Radach, R. (2002). A Contingent Speech Technique in Eye Movement Research on Reading. Behavior Research Methods Instruments and Computers, 34, 471-480.
Pollatsek, A., Lesch, M., Morris, R., & Rayner, K. (1992). Phonological codes are used in integrating information across saccades in word identification and reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 18, 148-162.