In the current study, we tested the generality of the modified receptive field (MRF) theory (Tydgat & Grainger, 2009) with English native speakers (Experiment 1) and Thai native speakers (Experiment 2). Thai has a distinctive alphabetic orthography with visually complex letters (ฝ ฟ or ผ พ) and nonlinear characteristics and lacks interword spaces. We used a two-alternative forced choice (2AFC) procedure to measure identification accuracy for all positions in a string of five characters, which consisted of Roman script letters, Thai letters, or symbols. For the English speakers, we found a similar pattern of results as in previous studies (i.e., a dissociation between letters and symbols). In contrast, for the Thai participants, we found that the pattern for Thai letters, Roman letters and symbols displayed a remarkably similar linear trend. Thus, while we observed qualified support for the MRF theory, in that we found an advantage for initial position, this effect also applied to symbols (i.e., our data revealed a language-specific effect). We propose that this pattern for letters and symbols in Thai has developed as a specialized adaptive mechanism for reading in this visually complex and crowded nonlinear script without interword spaces.
Winskel, H, Perea, M & Peart, E 2014, 'Testing the flexibility of the modified receptive field (MRF) theory: evidence from an unspaced orthography (Thai)', Acta Psychologica, vol. 150, pp. 55-60.
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