When reading misfires: the case for letter confusability
Reading is vital to every aspect of modern life, exacerbated by reliance of the internet, email, and social media on the written medium. During reading, letters comprising a word are recognised, combined, and converted into meaning and sound. Letter confusability refers to how visually similar different letters are to each other (“v-w” is more confusable than “v-l”). Confusability affects readability, as observed in reading errors and processing speed of dyslexic individuals. This research depends on confusability ratings between a target letter and other letters of the alphabet, and current resources are insufficient. This project will: (1) develop confusion matrices that precisely capture letter similarity for lower and upper case; (2) use visual distortion to filter out attributes critical in letter processing to test which letters are susceptible to confusion. These matrices will constitute a valuable new resource for studies in letter perception and reading processes in skilled and dyslexic readers.
Usefulness of our research
The work will be immediately relevant to researchers in visual recognition, whilst also contributing to other disciplines including psychophysics, cognition, perception and language. Once developed, the matrices will also be relevant for clinical practice. For instance, speech and language therapists who develop rehabilitation programmes for individuals with language disorders including developmental and acquired dyslexia. Hence, the project may have wider impact for NHS and health care providers by informing diagnosis and the development of more appropriate treatments for dyslexia.