Why Is Word Recognition Impaired by Disorientation While the Identification of Single Letters Is Not?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Past research has shown that speed of identifying single letters or digits is largely indifferent to orientation, whereas the recognition of single words or connected text is markedly disrupted by disorientation. In a series of four experiments, we attempted to reconcile these findings. The results suggest that disorientation does not impair the identification of the characters but disrupts the perception of their spatial arrangement. When spatial order information is critical for distinguishing between different stimuli, disorientation is disruptive because some rectification process is required to restore order information. Utilizing the similarity between the letter B and the number 13, we found strong effects of orientation when a stimulus was interpreted as the two-digit number 13 but not when interpreted as the single letter B. This, however, occurred only when the set of numbers to be classified included permutations of the same digits (Experiments 1 and 2). Odd-even decisions on single-digit and two-digit numbers (Experiment 3) yielded strong effects of stimulus orientation for order-dependent numbers (e.g., 32), weaker effects for order-independent numbers (e.g., 24), and none for repeated-digit (e.g., 22) or single-digit numbers. Classification time for two-letter Hebrew words evidenced strong effects of orientation for words that differed only in letter order but much weaker effects for words that had no letters in common, even when these were embedded within some words that did (Experiment 4).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-163
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Why Is Word Recognition Impaired by Disorientation While the Identification of Single Letters Is Not?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this