Visual word processing efficiency for Chinese characters and English words

Hanshu Zhang, Paul M. Garrett, Pei Yi Lin, Joseph W. Houpt, Cheng Ta Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The Word Superiority Effect (WSE) refers to the phenomenon where a single letter is recognized more accurately when presented within a word, compared to when it is presented alone or in a random string. However, previous research has produced conflicting findings regarding whether this effect also occurs in the processing of Chinese characters. The current study employed the capacity coefficient, a measure derived from the Systems Factorial Technology framework, to investigate processing efficiency and test for the superiority effect in Chinese characters and English words. We hypothesized that WSE would result in more efficient processing of characters/words compared to their individual components, as reflected by super capacity processing. However, contrary to our predictions, results from both the “same” (Experiment 1) and “different” (Experiment 2) judgment tasks revealed that native Chinese speakers exhibited limited processing capacity (inefficiency) for both English words and Chinese characters. In addition, results supported an English WSE with participants integrating English words and pseudowords more efficiently than nonwords, and decomposing nonwords more efficiently than words and pseudowords. In contrast, no superiority effect was observed for Chinese characters. To conclude, the current work suggests that the superiority effect only applies to English processing efficiency with specific context rules and does not extend to Chinese characters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103986
JournalActa Psychologica
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Systems factorial technology
  • Word recognition
  • Word superiority effect
  • Workload capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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