Authors: Kolinsky Régine, Fernandes Tânia.
Article: A cultural side effect: learning to read interferes with identity processing of familiar objects.
Publication: Frontiers in Psychology Volume 5, page 1224 2014 | DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01224
ABSTRACT Based on the neuronal recycling hypothesis (Dehaene & Cohen, 2007), we examined whether reading acquisition has a cost for the recognition of nonlinguistic visual materials. More specifically, we checked whether the ability to discriminate between mirror images, which develops through literacy acquisition, interferes with object identity judgments, and whether interference strength varies as a function of the nature of the nonlinguistic material. To these aims we presented illiterate, late literate (who learned to read at adult age), and early literate adults with an orientation-independent, identity-based same-different comparison task in which they had to respond “same” to both physically identical and mirrored or plane-rotated images of pictures of familiar objects (Experiment 1) or of geometric shapes (Experiment 2). Interference from irrelevant orientation variations was stronger with plane rotations than with mirror images, and stronger with geometric shapes than with objects. Illiterates were the only participants almost immune to mirror variations, but only for familiar objects. Thus, the process of unlearning mirror-image generalization, necessary to acquire literacy in the Latin alphabet, has a cost for a basic function of the visual ventral object recognition stream, i.e., identification of familiar objects. This demonstrates that neural recycling is not just an adaptation to multi-use but a process of at least partial exaptation.