School of Psychology
The University of Queensland


Ross Day Plenary Address - 5pm Wednesday 23rd April, 2014
Professor Sally Andrews

Lexical quality and skilled reading: Evidence and implications

Most theories and computational models of skilled reading have been built upon average data for unselected samples of university students, reflecting an implicit assumption that all skilled readers read in the same way. My recent investigations of individual differences amongst skilled readers challenge this assumption by demonstrating that individual differences in the precision and coherence of lexical knowledge, indexed by the combination of reading comprehension, vocabulary and spelling ability, modulate both the early stages of lexical retrieval tapped by masked priming tasks and the ‘division of labour’ between lexical and contextual processes during sentence processing. These data highlight the critical role played by ‘high quality lexical representations’ in supporting optimally efficient reading. Expert readers of English appear to adopt a relatively ‘bottom-up’ strategy that capitalizes on the fast, autonomous lexical retrieval afforded by their precise, coherent lexical knowledge. As well as contributing to understanding reading, this evidence provides insight into how the cognitive system adapts to master a complex skill.

Professor Sally Andrews completed her PhD at UNSW in 1983 and held an academic position in the School of Psychology there from 1984 until 2001, serving as Head of School from 1998-2001. She took up a position as Professor of Cognitive Psychology at the University of Sydney in 2002 and was Head of the School of Psychology there from 2005-11. She was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in 1998 and was a member of the ARC College of Experts from 2003-2005. Her major research interests are in cognitive psychology, particularly the processes involved in visual word recognition and reading. She has served on a number of Editorial Boards and as Associate Editor for Memory and Cognition, and is currently Associate Editor for the Journal of Memory and Language

Keynote Presentations:
Professor Sally Andrews