Papers We’re Reading

This is a place where members of the lab can write up short notes about the papers that they have read in 2019 (and found useful).

1. Learning Words Via Reading: Contextual Diversity, Spacing, and Retrieval Effects in Adults

New paper from and

Nice paper! Careful experimental design looking at how contextual diversity, temporal spacing, and retrieval opportunity influence adult learning of meanings of rare words (eg glaucous) during silent sentence reading. Eye-tracking measures during training and test.

Key finding: Repeated presentation of word in the SAME sentence context produces faster reading of that word during learning, but then slower reading of then target word in later, neutral test context.

Interpretation: Contextual variation during learning produces lexical representations that are either: (i) more context independent  or (ii) of enhanced quality. Either way, the word becomes easier to identify/retrieve and integrate into new (neutral) sentence.

Key limitation: Use of repeated presentation of the same exact sentence in ‘low diversity’ is problematic –  the authors note we need complementary studies that vary contextual diversity without using verbatim repetition.


2. The Impact of Shared Book Reading on Children’s Language Skills: A Meta-Analysis

Pre-print from Claire Noble, Giovanni Sala, Michelle Lowe, Jamie Lingwood, Caroline Rowland, Fernand Gobet, Julian Pine

Method: Meta-analysis of 54 studies (1989 – 2017) to explore effectiveness of shared book reading interventions on language development in children aged 7 or below. Outcome measures were: expressive vocab, receptive vocab, phonological awareness, print concepts, expressive language, and mics.

Key Findings: A gloomy picture! The benefit of shared reading on language development is negligible in studies with active control groups, suggesting that “the effect of shared book reading on language skills … may best be understood as a placebo effect”. And studies with follow-ups show near zero effects.

Recommendations: Many of the studies included are relatively low-dose interventions (6-8 weeks). Authors caution against dismissing shared book reading as a language-boosting intervention and make following recommendations for future research: higher dosage (6-12 months); active controls; follow-up testing; test across range of SES.