Visual Spatial Attention Skills and Holistic Processing in High School Students With and Without Dyslexia

AbstractVisual-spatial attention has been shown to influence literacy development, yet studies investigating its influence on reading in non-alphabetic scripts such as Chinese are scarce, despite recent studies demonstrating orthographic and visuo-spatial skills to be key deficits in people with dyslexia in Chinese. Here, we investigate visual-spatial processing skills in Chinese adolescents by measuring their 1) exogenous and endogenous attentional orienting, and 2) holistic processing—a phenomenon typically demonstrated in face perception—in Chinese character recognition. Compared with typically developing students, Chinese high-school students with dyslexia showed deficits in both endogenous and exogenous visual-spatial attention. Dyslexics also perceived characters more holistically than the controls, suggesting that they selectively attended to individual components within Chinese characters less readily. These results demonstrated irregularities in visual-spatial processing skills in students in dyslexia. This study provides implications for reading intervention programs in order to facilitate selective attention to character components to enhance literacy.

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