Increased reliance on top-down information to compensate for reduced bottom-up use of acoustic cues in dyslexia

Hadeer Derawi, Eva Reinisch, Yafit Gabay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Speech recognition is a complex human behavior in the course of which listeners must integrate the detailed phonetic information present in the acoustic signal with their general linguistic knowledge. It is commonly assumed that this process occurs effortlessly for most people, but it is still unclear whether this also holds true in the case of developmental dyslexia (DD), a condition characterized by perceptual deficits. In the present study, we used a dual-task setting to test the assumption that speech recognition is effortful for people with DD. In particular, we tested the Ganong effect (i.e., lexical bias on phoneme identification) while participants performed a secondary task of either low or high cognitive demand. We presumed that reduced efficiency in perceptual processing in DD would manifest in greater modulation in the performance of primary task by cognitive load. Results revealed that this was indeed the case. We found a larger Ganong effect in the DD group under high than under low cognitive load, and this modulation was larger than it was for typically developed (TD) readers. Furthermore, phoneme categorization was less precise in the DD group than in the TD group. These findings suggest that individuals with DD show increased reliance on top-down lexically mediated perception processes, possibly as a compensatory mechanism for reduced efficiency in bottom-up use of acoustic cues. This indicates an imbalance between bottom-up and top-down processes in speech recognition of individuals with DD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-292
Number of pages12
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
Early online date24 Sep 2021
StatePublished - Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Developmental dyslexia
  • Dual task
  • Ganong effect
  • Lexical bias
  • Speech perception
  • Spoken word recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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