Reading in alphabetic writing systems: Evidence from cognitive neuroscience

Jane Ashby, Keith Rayner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This chapter discusses the behavioural, neurophysiological, and computational evidence relevant for understanding reading. Because readers must recognize printed words in order to comprehend a passage, it focuses on research that illuminates how word recognition happens. The first section of this chapter describes research on how skilled word recognition occurs. It discusses evidence that phonology has a strong influence on parafoveal word processing, and that phonological processes facilitate word recognition in the first tenth of a second of seeing a word. The second section discusses early reading development (in five- to eight-year-olds), beginning with the technology of alphabetic writing systems, which is based on the mapping of speech sounds to letters. Before learning this alphabetic principle, children guess at printed words. As alphabetic awareness improves, children begin attending to the letters and mapping them onto speech sounds to independently read unfamiliar words. After several accurate readings of a new word, a child can usually recognize it quickly. These phases of learning to read track the development of reading circuits in the brain.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeuroscience in Education
Subtitle of host publicationThe good, the bad, and the ugly
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191739187
ISBN (Print)9780199600496
StatePublished - May 24 2012


  • Alphabet writing
  • Parafoveal word processing
  • Phonology
  • Printed words
  • Reading development
  • Word recognition


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