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Tianyin Liu, Janet Hui-wen Hsiao; Neural correlates of font sensitivity effects in the perception of simplified and traditional Chinese characters. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):181. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.10.181.
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Changes in font regularity within a word or between words are shown to affect experts more than novices in visual word recognition (Gauthier et al., 2006). Consistent with this finding, we recently found that expert Chinese readers showed stronger left side bias (i.e., the preference to judge a character made from two left-halves of a mirror-symmetric character more similar to the original character than one from two right-halves; Hsiao & Cottrell, 2009) in perceiving characters in a familiar font than in an unfamiliar font. Nevertheless, this font sensitivity effect was limited to characters with the visual complexity of the script that the readers were most familiar with. Here we used a masked repetition priming paradigm in a semantic decision task with EEG recording to examine font sensitivity effects in simplified and traditional Chinese readers with simplified, traditional, and shared (shared between the two scripts) character stimuli. In each trial, the target character was presented in a familiar font (song), while the prime was in either the same (song) or a different, unfamiliar font (feng). Since simplified script readers are not familiar with traditional characters, they may demonstrate less font sensitivity to traditional characters. In contrast, because the visual complexity of shared characters are similar to simplified but not traditional characters, font sensitivity effects may only be observed in traditional characters among traditional Chinese readers. Consistent with our hypothesis, the font change across the prime and target affected N1 amplitude among simplified Chinese readers when perceiving simplified and shared but not traditional characters. In contrast, traditional Chinese readers demonstrated a marginal font sensitivity effect only in traditional characters. These results suggest that font sensitivity depends on experience with the visual complexity of the script. The heterogeneity in visual complexity among Chinese characters provides this unique opportunity to reveal this effect.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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