Authors: Laura M. Steacy, Ashley A. Edwards, Valeria M. Rigobon, Nuria Gutiérrez, Nancy C. Marencin, Noam Siegelman, Alexandra C. Himelhoch, Cristina Himelhoch, Jay Rueckl, Donald L. Compton.

Article: Set for Variability as a Critical Predictor of Word Reading: Potential Implications for Early Identification and Treatment of Dyslexia..

Publication: Reading Research Quarterly (Wiley). First published: 17 August 2022 2022 | DOI: 10.1002/rrq.475


Quasiregular orthographies such as English contain substantial ambiguities between orthography and phonology that force developing readers to acquire flexibility during decoding of unfamiliar words, a skill referred to as a “set for variability” (SfV). The ease with which a child can disambiguate the mismatch between the decoded form of a word and its actual lexical phonological form has been operationalized using the SfV mispronunciation task (e.g., the word wasp is pronounced to rhyme with clasp [i.e., /wæsp/] and the child must recognize the actual pronunciation of the word to be /wɒsp/). SfV has been shown to be a significant predictor of word reading variance. However, little is known about the relative strength of SfV as a predictor of word reading compared to other well-established predictors or the strength of this relationship in children with dyslexia. To address these questions, we administered the SfV task to a sample of grade 2–5 children (N = 489) along with other reading related measures. SfV accounted for 15% unique variance in word reading above and beyond other predictors, whereas phonological awareness (PA) accounted for only 1%. Dominance analysis indicated SfV is the most powerful predictor, demonstrating complete statistical dominance over other variables including PA. Quantile regression revealed SfV is a stronger predictor at lower levels of reading skill, indicating it may be an important predictor in students with dyslexia. Results suggest that SfV is a powerful and potentially highly sensitive predictor of early reading difficulties and, therefore, may be important for early identification and treatment of dyslexia.

Tagged as: orthographic depth, phonological awareness, SfV Set for Variability, and word recognition


Steacy, L.M., Edwards, A.A., Rigobon, V.M., Gutiérrez, N., Marencin, N.C., Siegelman, N., Himelhoch, A.C., Himelhoch, C., Rueckl, J. and Compton, D.L. (2022), Set for Variability as a Critical Predictor of Word Reading: Potential Implications for Early Identification and Treatment of Dyslexia. Read Res Q.

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