Higher N170 amplitudes to words and to faces were recently reported for faster readers of German. Since the shallow German orthography allows phonological recoding of single letters, the reported speed advantages might have their origin in especially well-developed visual processing skills of faster readers. In contrast to German, adult readers of Hebrew are forced to process letter chunks up to whole words. This dependence on more complex visual processing might have created ceiling effects for this skill. Therefore, the current study examined whether also in the deep Hebrew orthography visual processing skills as reflected by N170 amplitudes explain reading speed differences. Forty university students, native speakers of Hebrew without reading impairments, accomplished a lexical decision task (i.e., deciding whether a visually presented stimulus represents a real or a pseudo word) and a face decision task (i.e., deciding whether a face was presented complete or with missing facial features) while their electroencephalogram was recorded from 64 scalp positions. In both tasks stronger event related potentials (ERPs) were observed for faster readers in time windows at about 200 ms. Unlike in previous studies, ERP waveforms in relevant time windows did not correspond to N170 scalp topographies. The results support the notion of visual processing ability as an orthography independent marker of reading proficiency, which advances our understanding about regular and impaired reading development.
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