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Neuroscience - Pediatrics and Child Health

The Characteristics of Chinese Orthographic Neighborhood Size Effect for Developing Readers
Published: Monday, October 08, 2012
Author: Jing Zhao et al.

by Jing Zhao, Qing-Lin Li, Hong-Yan Bi

Orthographic neighborhood size (N size) effect in Chinese character naming has been studied in adults. In the present study, we aimed to explore the developmental characteristics of Chinese N size effect. One hundred and seventeen students (40 from the 3rd grade with mean age of 9 years; 40 from the 5th grade with mean age of 11 years; 37 from the 7th grade with mean age of 13 years) were recruited in the study. A naming task of Chinese characters was adopted to elucidate N-size- effect development. Reaction times and error rates were recorded. Results showed that children in the 3rd grade named characters from large neighborhoods faster than named those from small neighborhoods, revealing a facilitatory N size effect; the 5th graders showed null N size effect; while the 7th graders showed an inhibitory N size effect, with longer reaction times for the characters from large neighborhoods than for those from small neighborhoods. The change from facilitation to inhibition of neighborhood size effect across grades suggested the transition from broadly tuned to finely tuned lexical representation in reading development, and the possible inhibition from higher frequency neighbors for higher graders.