At the doors of lexical access: The importance of the first 250 milliseconds in reading
Jon Andoni Dunabeitia
Correct word identification and processing is a prerequisite for accurate reading, and decades of psycholinguistic and neuroscientific research have shown that the magical moments of visual word recognition are short-lived and markedly fast. The time window in which a given letter string passes from being a mere sequence of printed curves and strokes to acquiring the word status takes around one third of a second. In a few hundred milliseconds, a skilled reader recognizes an isolated word and carries out a number of underlying processes, such as the encoding of letter position and letter identity, and lexico-semantic information retrieval. However, the precise manner (and order) in which these processes occur (or co-occur) is a matter of contention subject to empirical research. There's no agreement regarding the precise timing of some of the essential processes that guide visual word processing, such as precise letter identification, letter position assignment or sub-word unit processing (bigrams, trigrams, syllables, morphemes), among others. Which is the sequence of processes that lead to lexical access? How do these and other processes interact with each other during the early moments of word processing? Do these processes occur in a serial fashion or do they take place in parallel? Are these processes subject to mutual interaction principles? Is feedback allowed for within the earliest stages of word identification? And ultimately, when does the reader's brain effectively identify a given word? A vast number of questions remain open, and this Research Topic will cover some of them, giving the readership the opportunity to understand how the scientific community faces the problem of modeling the early stages of word identification according to the latest neuroscientific findings.