Morphological processing during visual word recognition in developing readers: Evidence from masked priming

The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(7), 1306–1326.


Masked priming studies with adult readers have provided evidence for a form-based morpho-orthographic segmentation mechanism that “blindly” decomposes any word with the appearance of morphological complexity. The present studies investigated whether evidence for structural morphological decomposition can be obtained with developing readers. We used a masked primed lexical decision design first adopted by Rastle, Davis, and New (2004), comparing truly suffixed (golden-GOLD) and pseudosuffixed (mother-MOTH) prime-target pairs with nonsuffixed controls (spinach-SPIN). Experiment 1 tested adult readers, showing that priming from both pseudo- and truly suffixed primes could be obtained using our own set of high-frequency word materials. Experiment 2 assessed a group of Year 3 and Year 5 children, but priming only occurred when prime and target shared a true morphological relationship, and not when the relationship was pseudomorphological. This pattern of results indicates that morpho-orthographic decomposition mechanisms do not become automatized until a relatively late stage in reading development.

The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(7), 1306–1326