Categorical perception of Chinese characters by simplified and traditional Chinese readers

Ruoxiao Yang, William Shi Yuan Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research has shown that the visual complexity of orthographies across writing systems influences the development of orthographic representations. Simplified and traditional Chinese characters are usually regarded as the most visually complicated writing systems currently in use, with the traditional system showing a higher level of complexity. However, it is still unclear whether and how learning two Chinese writing systems influences the processing of characters among simplified and traditional Chinese script readers. This study employed the categorical perception (CP) paradigm to examine adult Mainland China Chinese (MLC) simplified character readers and adult Hong Kong Chinese (HKC) traditional character readers’ liminal perception of the following types of morphing continua of “line characters” (with font features removed): the Absolute-Differentiation (AD) type, which contains a topological change, and the Relative-Differentiation type, which does not contain any topological change in visual configurations. The results showed evidence of CP effects on the two types of stimuli among MLC and HKC readers. Moreover, MLC and HKC readers presented major differences in perceiving AD-type stimuli, indicating that different experiences with two Chinese writing systems influence character perception. These findings extend previous results regarding the comparison of visual skills of simplified and traditional Chinese script readers and support the hypothesis that simplified Chinese script readers have higher visual discrimination rates than do traditional Chinese script readers in character perception.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1133-1154
Number of pages22
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


  • Categorical perception
  • Pattern perception
  • Simplified Chinese characters
  • Traditional Chinese characters

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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