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It is widely accepted that most developmental dyslexics perform poorly on tasks which assess phonological awareness. One reason for this association might be that the early or "input" phonological representations of speech sounds are distorted or noisy in some way. We have attempted to test this hypothesis directly. In Experiment 1, we measured the confusions that adult dyslexics and controls made when they listened to nine randomly presented consonant-vowel (CV) segments [sequence: see text] under four conditions of increasing white noise masking. Subjects could replay stimuli and were under no obligation to respond quickly. Responses were selected with a computer mouse from a set of nine letter-strings, corresponding to the auditory stimuli, presented on a VDU. While the overall pattern of confusions made by dyslexics and controls was very similar for this stimulus set, dyslexics confused [sequence: see text] significantly more than did controls. In Experiment 2, subjects heard each stimulus once only and were forced to respond as quickly as possible. Under these timed conditions, the pattern of confusions made by dyslexics and controls was the same as before, but dyslexics took longer to respond than controls. The slower responses of dyslexics in Experiment 2 could have arisen because: (a) they were slower at processing the auditory stimuli than controls, (b) they had worse visual pattern memory for letter strings than controls, (c) they were slower than controls at using the computer mouse. In Experiments 3, 4 and 5 subjects carried out control tasks which eliminated each of these possibilities and confirmed that the results from the auditory tasks genuinely reflected subjects' speech perception. We propose that the fine structure of dyslexics' input phonological representations should be further explored with this confusion paradigm by using other speech sounds containing VCs, CCVs and VCCs.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





275 - 306


Adult, Attention, Confusion, Dyslexia, Female, Humans, Male, Perceptual Distortion, Perceptual Masking, Phonetics, Reading, Sound Spectrography, Speech Perception