Workpackage 5. Implicit and Explicit Learning in Spelling


Co-ordinator: S.Defior


Senior Researchers: M. Caravolas, M. Mikulajova

Participants: Unversity of Granada, Bangor University, Comenius University

Background and Rationale: Spelling is undoubtedly the more difficult of the basic literacy skills to master, and available data across languages show that spelling impairments remain serious among adults with dyslexia (1). However, how children learn to spell remains under-researched. This Workpackage, with learners of one deep (English) and two shallow (Slovak, Spanish) orthographies, will involve studies of implicit and explicit learning. A series of cross-sectional experiments contrasting the influence of implicit versus explicit learning and their relative roles in spelling development as a function of variations in spoken and written language structure, phase of spelling development, and literacy impairment (dyslexia) will be conducted. The approach of this project will complement the longitudinal investigations of Workpackage 1 and 4, and will deepen our understanding of the learning mechanisms underlying spelling development in different Indoeuropean languages.

This workpackage will highlight

  • The relative importance of implicit or incidental learning among typical and atypical (dyslexic) populations (2,3). versus
  • Explicit learning mechanisms in spelling development (4,5).
  • Cross-linguistically, the relative influence of orthographic depth on the learning process.
  • Whether the predictability (transparency) of a specific writing system significantly influence the way children learn to read and write it (6).


(1). Caravolas, M. (2005). The nature and causes of dyslexia in different languages. The Science of Reading: A handbook. M. Snowling and C. Hulme. Oxford, Blackwells Publishers.

(2). Perruchet, P., & Pacton, S. (2006). Implicit learning and statistical learning: one phenomenon, two approaches. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 10, 233-238

(3). Although we are aware of the distinctions sometimes drawn between the terms implicit and incidental and of their associations with the Implicit Learning and Statistical Learning, respectively (Perruchet & Pacton, 2006), for the present purposes we use them interchangeably without reference to specific experimental paradigms, because both lead to the same learning phenomenon

(4). Cassar, M. and R. Treiman (1997). "The beginnings of orthographic knowledge: Children's knowledge of double letter in words." Journal of Educational Psychology 89(4): 631-644.

(5). Steffler, D. (2004). "An investigation of grade 5 children's knowledge of the doubling rule in spelling." Journal of Research in Reading 27: 248-264.

(6). Halford, G., Wilson, W., & Phillips, S. (1998). Processing capacity defined by relational complexity: Implications for comparative, developmental, and cognitive psychology. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 21, 803-865.