The involvement of inhibition in word and sentence reading

Read Writ. 2023;36(5):1283-1318. doi: 10.1007/s11145-022-10337-8. Epub 2022 Aug 23.


Individual differences in reading performance between children appear from the onset of literacy acquisition. One possible explanation for this variability is the influence of inhibition in reading ability, a topic that has received very little research attention. Nevertheless, children often make guessing errors characterized by replacing a word with an orthographic neighbor, possibly linked to failing inhibition. The present study aims to evaluate the role of inhibition during word and sentence reading and compare its effects in spoken and motor tasks. Participants comprised 25 children in Grades 2 and 3 (Mage = 8; 2). The children performed five inhibition tasks in reading (words, sentences), spoken (words, sentences) and motor modalities. Within the two reading tasks, inhibition demands were assessed using pairs of orthographic neighbors for which the frequency was manipulated. Accuracy, types of errors, latency, and response times were measured. GLMM analyses demonstrated that children were sensitive to the inhibitory demands of both spoken tasks and of the sentence reading task regarding accuracy, latency, and response times. Indeed, children made more mistakes and were slower when inhibitory demands were augmented. They also made more guessing errors in the word reading task. No such inhibitory effect was found in the motor task. Moreover, correlational analyses revealed that children who showed better inhibitory skills were able to read words and texts more accurately. These findings suggest that children need to utilize inhibitory resources when processing words or sentences and that these inhibitory skills are involved in overall reading ability.

Keywords: Executive functions; Inhibition; Reading assessment; Sentence reading; Word reading.