Authors: Giada Guerra, Jurgen Tijms, Adam Tierney, Anniek Vaessen, Frederic Dick, Milene Bonte.

Article: Auditory attention influences trajectories of symbol–speech sound learning in children with and without dyslexia.

Publication: Journal of Experimental Child Psychology (Elsevier). Volume 237, January 2024, 105761 2023 | DOI: 10.1016/j.jecp.2023.105761

[Full Text]


  • Moment-to-moment learning processes may be crucial for understanding reading difficulties
  • Children with dyslexia showed shallower learning trajectories during an associative task
  • Auditory attention predicts the individual ability to learn novel audio-visual associations


The acquisition of letter–speech sound correspondences is a fundamental process underlying reading development, one that could be influenced by several linguistic and domain-general cognitive factors. In the current study, we mimicked the first steps of this process by examining behavioral trajectories of audiovisual associative learning in 110 7- to 12-year-old children with and without dyslexia. Children were asked to learn the associations between eight novel symbols and native speech sounds in a brief training and subsequently read words and pseudowords written in the artificial orthography. We then investigated the influence of auditory attention as one of the putative domain-general factors influencing associative learning. To this aim, we assessed children with experimental measures of auditory sustained selective attention and interference control. Our results showed shallower learning trajectories in children with dyslexia, especially during the later phases of the training blocks. Despite this, children with dyslexia performed similarly to typical readers on the post-training reading tests using the artificial orthography. Better auditory sustained selective attention and interference control skills predicted greater response accuracy during training. Sustained selective attention was also associated with the ability to apply these novel correspondences in the reading tests. Although this result has the limitations of a correlational design, it denotes that poor attentional skills may constitute a risk during the early stages of reading acquisition, when children start to learn letter–speech sound associations. Importantly, our findings underscore the importance of examining dynamics of learning in reading acquisition as

Tagged as: attention focus, audiovisual learning, auditory attention, and speech perception


Guerra, G., Tijms, J., Tierney, A., Vaessen, A., Dick, F., & Bonte, M. (2024). Auditory attention influences trajectories of symbol–speech sound learning in children with and without dyslexia. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 237, 105761.

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