Reading aloud is not automatic: processing capacity is required to generate a phonological code from print

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2006 Dec;32(6):1303-23. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.32.6.1303.


The present experiments tested the claim that phonological recoding occurs "automatically" by assessing whether it uses central attention in the context of the psychological refractory period paradigm. Task 1 was a tone discrimination task and Task 2 was reading aloud. The joint effects of long-lag word repetition priming and stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) were underadditive in Experiment 1, suggesting that an early component of lexical processing does not use central attention. In contrast, nonword letter length and grapheme-phoneme complexity yielded additive effects with SOA in Experiments 2, 3, and 4, suggesting that assembled phonology uses central attention. Further, orthographic neighborhood density also yielded additive effects with SOA in Experiments 5, 6, and 7, suggesting that lexical contributions to phonological recoding use central attention. Taken together, the results of these experiments are inconsistent with the widespread claim that phonological codes are assembled and/or addressed automatically. It is suggested that "automaticity" should be replaced by accounts that make more specific claims about how processing unfolds.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention*
  • Automatism*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Ontario
  • Phonetics*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Reaction Time
  • Reading*
  • Refractory Period, Psychological
  • Speech / physiology*