Exploring the effects of knowledge of writing on reading Chinese characters in skilled readers

Mingjun Zhai, Simon Fischer-Baum

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Knowledge about how characters are written has been argued to play a particularly important role in how children learn to read Chinese. In the current study, we investigate the role that knowledge about writing characters plays in visual word processing in skilled adult readers. While there is clear neuropsychological evidence against the strong version of the hypothesis that reading depends on writing in Chinese even once literacy is acquired, it is still possible that writing could have a modulatory influence on how visually presented Chinese characters are processed in literate readers. The present study addressed this hypothesis using a visual same/different judgment task on pairs of characters that vary in how similar the 2 characters are visually and how similar they are in terms of motor plan, using 24 expert readers and writers of Chinese and 24 naïve participants with no prior experience with written Chinese as subjects. The results of linear mixed-effects modeling indicate that the speed of same/different judgments is influenced by visual similarity, but not by how similar they are written, even in the group of skilled readers. These results suggest that knowledge of how Chinese characters are written does not influence visual character processing in skilled readers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)724-731
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • character perception
  • reading
  • writing
  • Chinese characters
  • expertise


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