The use of phonological information by good and poor readers in memory and reading tasks

Christopher Holligan, Rhona S. Johnston

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


There has been a recent debate about the utilization of phonological information by poor readers in both working memory and reading tasks. The purpose of the first experiment in this study was to examine whether the absence of phonological similarity effects in working memory reported in previous studies was due to inappropriate levels oftask difficulty. Poor readers and their reading age controls were found to show a normal effect when the memory task was at an appropriate level of difficulty, but no effect when a large number of items had to be recalled. However, in a recognition memory task, the poor readers chose orthographically similar pairs, whereas the reading-age and chronological age controls chose phonologically similar pairs. The purpose of a final experiment was to determine whether or not the good and poor readers could be differentiated in terms of their reading strategies; both groups showed regularity effects in a naming task and pseudohomophone effects in a lexical decision task. However, although poor readers could read three-letter nonwords as well as their controls, they were significantly impaired in reading more complexone-syllable nonwords. It was concludedthat poor readers may have a phonological dysfunction in some aspects ofreading that is unrelated to whether or not they show phonological similarity effects in working memory. Impaired segmentation skills may underly their difficulties in both reading and nonreading tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number16 (6)
Pages (from-to)522-532
Number of pages10
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 1988


  • Phonological information
  • Memory
  • Reading


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