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Faith L. Florer, Vernonique Salvano-Pardieu, Allison M. Hermann; The effect of polarity on reading and word-stem completion. Journal of Vision 2004;4(8):527. doi: 10.1167/4.8.527.
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To examine the perceptual processes that support reading and memory, we examined the effect of the polarity of both reading text and word-stem completion task (black text on white paper vs. white text on black background). Subjects read a passage of 380 words, in both polarities. They then were asked to associate cities with states for two minutes. Following the city/state task, subjects were asked to recall words associated with stems from a list of 40 words. Twenty of the words were words appearing infrequently in the English language, at least 5 letters long, were from the same text that subjects had just read. Twenty were from another passage from the same book, but not the same passage. The polarity of the text and test words was either the same or different. We found that subjects recalled significantly more words when the word stems were white,,and the background was black, F (1, 14) = 21.23, p < .05. The polarity of the text or the similarity of text and background had no effect, F (1, 14) = 8.00, p > .05. Subjects reported that it was difficult to read the white stems on the black background. We hypothesize that the result is attributable to the increased effort subjects spent on recall.
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