The nature and specificity of paired associate learning deficits in children with dyslexia
Litt RA., Nation K.
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.