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Attention and reading: Wholes and parts in shape recognition. A tutorial review.
In M. Coltheart (Ed.), Attention and Performance XII: The Psychology of Reading (pp.39-61). London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
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This paper deals with the role of attention in letter and word recognition, in particular Treisman’s idea that serial scrutiny is needed for the correct arrangement of parts into wholes, either strokes into letters, or letters into words. Data based on three experimental techniques are considered. In tachistoscopic word report, there is partial loss of across-string letter location, while within-string location is preserved. No comparable phenomena occur for strokes within letters. I visual search, there is parallel processing of homogeneous letter displays, while word search is always serial. In priming, unrecognisable peripheral letters and words both prime identification of a central stimulus. Priming is influenced by within-letter location of strokes, but perhaps not by within-string location of letters. Contrasts between (a) across-object and within-object location of parts, (b) letters and words, (c) different experimental tasks are all important. General schemes to account for the arrangement of perceptual parts into wholes are premature.