2022-02-12Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.1111/psyp.14006
Does learning different script systems affect configural visual processing? ERP evidence from early readers of Chinese and German
Reading is a complex cultural skill requiring considerable training, apparently affecting also the processing of non-linguistic visual stimuli. We examined whether the different visual demands involved in reading different script systems—alphabetic German versus logographic Chinese script—would differentially influence configural visual processing. Our main dependent measure was the N170 component of the ERP, which is considered as a signature of configural processing. In the present study, German and Chinese children (N = 28 vs. 27) who had received about one year of formal instruction in their native script system, worked on a series of one-back tasks with naturalistic faces, two-tone Mooney faces and doodles, and on an adaptation task with pairs of faces were either identical or differed in their second-order relations. Chinese children showed larger N170 amplitudes than German children for naturalistic and Mooney faces, specifically indicating superior holistic processing in Chinese children. In contrast, there was no superiority in Chinese children on the second-order adaptation effect at the N170, providing no evidence for differences in second-order relations processing of facial configurations between the groups. Given the sensitivity of the visual system to reading acquisition, these findings suggest that these group differences in holistic processing might be due to the extensive training with the highly complex logographic script system learned by Chinese children, imposing high demands on higher-order visual perception.