How Many Words Can We Read At Once?

1091 words - 5 pages

In 2013, The Journal of Memory and Language published a research-backed cognitive psychology article titled “How many words can we read at once? More intervenor effects in masked priming” by Kenneth I. Forster. Forster, a professor of Psychology at the University of Arizona, assesses that “when a masked word intervenes between the prime (L1 (native language)) and the target (L2 (second language), three words must be processed simultaneously, and that under these conditions, form priming is eliminated altogether and identity priming is reduced, suggesting that the capacity of the lexical processor does not extend to three words”. It is argued that the differential effect of the intervenor on identity and form priming can be explained using the assumption that priming takes place at the level of form as well as the level of meaning. Forster, through this research, generalizes the information collected from all the higher degree seeking individuals as if to say that since this is true for college freshman it must be true for all grade levels. Even though I understand his questions and his motives in not only the questions he asks but also his experiments and the objectives he was trying to achieve by stating that “each time we read a word, we must recover the stored information about the phonology, syntax, and semantics of that word. Moreover, this information must be retrieved extremely rapidly and because so much processing has to be done, it seems obvious that the processing of one word must overlap to some degree with the processing of the next word” (1). Though Forster offers many valid points pertaining to the amount of words we can read at once, he fails to acknowledge those who do not fall into this category by only testing University students while failing to offer possible resolutions to the problem or means of further research.
Forster’s position on how many words we can read at once begins within the very first paragraph of the article, as he throws numerous literary and psychology terms at the reader so as to provide his stance and where he “knows” the research will take him, without having to state it. By informing the reader that “so much processing has to be done [when reading a word] that it seems obvious that the processing of one word must overlap to some degree with the processing of the next word” (1), Forster has already placed himself in a position stating that as we read our mental processes go through a mechanism guiding us through a line of text all while interpreting and defining the unknown terminology. “For example, given that we have just retrieved the properties of word N from our mental lexicon, the process of integrating that word with the previous context might be carried out while the properties of word N + 1 are being retrieved. One line of evidence comes from eye tracking experiments, where it can be shown that some of the properties of word N + 1 are established while the eye is still fixating on word N” (2)....

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