Spatial Attention Shifting and Phonological Processing in Adults with Dyslexia

Ian Abbott, Rebecca F Larkin, Andrew K Dunn


We assessed whether a group of adults with dyslexia showed impaired performance on shifting visual spatial attention, as per Hari and Renvall’s (2001) sluggish attentional shifting (SAS) hypothesis. Twelve adults with dyslexia and 12 controls took part in the experiment and  completed  standardised measures of single word reading, spelling, IQ, phonological processing, speed of processing and non-word reading.  Attention orienting was measured using a version a task developed by Schul et al., (2004), which yields accuracy and reaction time data.  Overall, the dyslexic participants showed the same pattern of performance as the control participants on the attention orienting task, but completed the tasks at a consistently slower pace.  Further attention shifting was not a significant unique predictor of non-word reading performance after age, general ability and speed of processing had been controlled. The findings suggest that a deficit in cognitive processing speed may characterise dyslexia alongside core difficulties with phonological awareness.

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