This study examined visual processing and visual short term memory in 14 reading delayed and control adolescents (17-19 years). Subjects were administered a reading test, a measure of general intelligence and two computerized memory tasks. In the first task, subjects were presented 36 paired-associate items in four combinations of pictures and words and subsequently tested for both immediate and delayed cued recall. A second task involved the visual examination of 24 pairs of random shapes or geometric designs presented simultaneously or successively.
The results of test 1 revealed that performance for both groups improved from immediate recall to delayed recall, indicating that both groups effectively used encoding strategies, such as rehearsal. The picture-word combination was the most accurately recalled for both groups, suggesting that pictures as stimuli were an effective aid to recall when words were paired as response items. Performance between groups did not differ for either the paired-associate combinations or the immediate and delayed recall trials, suggesting that deficits in short term memory or transfer to long term memory are not strongly associated with reading difficulties in adolescents.
The results of test 2 revealed that performance for the simultaneous display was superior to the successive display for both groups, suggesting that perceptual processing was more efficient than visual short term memory in making visual discriminations. Significant differences also were found between random shapes and geometric designs for both groups, suggesting that both groups had less difficulty processing information that could be verbally encoded. No significant differences were found between groups for either visual processing or visual short term memory, suggesting that visual processing deficits and visual short term memory deficits are not associated with reading difficulties in adolescents. Future research on adolescent reading difficulties should concentrate on other processes associated with reading, such as encoding strategies, attentional capacity, and the internal processing of abstract information.