Effects of aging and text-stimulus quality on the word-frequency effect during Chinese reading.

Wang, Jingxin, Li, Lin, Li, Sha, Xie, Fang, Liversedge, Simon Paul orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8579-8546 and Paterson, Kevin B. (2018) Effects of aging and text-stimulus quality on the word-frequency effect during Chinese reading. Psychology and Aging, 33 (4). pp. 693-712. ISSN 0882-7974

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pag0000259


Age-related reading difficulty is well established for alphabetic languages. Compared to young adults (18–30 years), older adults (65+ years) read more slowly, make more and longer fixations, make more regressions, and produce larger word-frequency effects. However, whether similar effects are observed for nonalphabetic languages like Chinese remains to be determined. In particular, recent research has suggested Chinese readers experience age-related reading difficulty but do not produce age differences in the word-frequency effect. This might represent an important qualitative difference in aging effects, so we investigated this further by presenting young and older adult Chinese readers with sentences that included high- or low-frequency target words. Additionally, to test theories that suggest reductions in text-stimulus quality differentially affect lexical processing by adult age groups, we presented either the target words (Experiment 1) or all characters in sentences (Experiment 2) normally or with stimulus quality reduced. Analyses based on mean eye-movement parameters and distributional analyses of fixation times for target words showed typical age-related reading difficulty. We also observed age differences in the word-frequency effect, predominantly in the tails of fixation-time distributions, consistent with an aging effect on the processing of high- and low-frequency words. Reducing stimulus quality disrupted eye movements more for the older readers, but the influence of stimulus quality on the word-frequency effect did not differ across age groups. This suggests Chinese older readers’ lexical processing is resilient to reductions in stimulus quality, perhaps due to greater experience recognizing words from impoverished visual input. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

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