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We report three experiments investigating the specificity and nature of paired associate learning (PAL) deficits in children with dyslexia. Experiments 1 and 2 compared children with dyslexia and age-matched controls across the following stimulus-response mapping conditions, designed to dissociate crossmodal and verbal demands: visual-verbal, verbal-verbal, visual-visual, and verbal-visual. Children with dyslexia exhibited deficits in visual-verbal and verbal-verbal PAL only. Experiment 3 investigated the stage of learning in which PAL deficits arise by separating the verbal learning and associative learning components of a visual-verbal PAL task. Results revealed an item-specific relationship between phonological form learning and later associative learning success. Visual-verbal PAL deficits were fully accounted for by the preceding deficit in phonological form learning. Together, our results show that PAL deficits in dyslexia are not a consequence of difficulties with associative learning; instead, they are best characterized as deficits in phonological form learning. The implications of these findings for theories of reading development and dyslexia are discussed. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Memory and Language

Publication Date





71 - 88