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Keywords:

  • Reading development;
  • N250;
  • N400;
  • Event-related potentials (ERPs);
  • Masked priming

Abstract

This study examined the time-course of reading single words in children and adults using masked repetition priming and the recording of event-related potentials. The N250 and N400 repetition priming effects were used to characterize form- and meaning-level processing, respectively. Children had larger amplitude N250 effects than adults for both shorter and longer duration primes. Children did not differ from adults on the N400 effect. The difference on the N250 suggests that automaticity for form processing is still maturing in children relative to adults, while the lack of differentiation on the N400 effect suggests that meaning processing is relatively mature by late childhood. The overall similarity in the children's repetition priming effects to adults' effects is in line with theories of reading acquisition, according to which children rapidly transition to an orthographic strategy for fast access to semantic information from print.