Exploring the Role of Prosodic Awareness and Executive Functions in Word Reading and Reading Comprehension: a Study of Cognitive Flexibility in Adult Readers

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Chan, Jessica S.
Executive Function , Cognition , Phonological Processing , Prosody , Adult Readers , Word Reading , Reading Achievement , Reading Comprehension
The current study examined the phonological process of prosodic ability in a model of adult word reading and reading comprehension ability. All phonological tasks involve executive functions (EF) reflected in an individual’s flexibility for manipulating different components of language. To account for the EF demands involved in phonological tasks of reading, EF was assessed using measures of inhibitory control and switching attention as both a control variable and predictor in each model of reading. Two research questions guided the study: 1) Do prosodic ability and EF make independent contributions to word reading, and reading comprehension ability when controlling for the other? 2) Do prosodic ability and EF make unique contributions to word reading, and reading comprehension ability when controlling for the other, in addition to controlling for vocabulary, fluid (nonverbal) intelligence, rapid automatized naming (RAN - Digits), and phonological short-term memory (PSTM)? Participants were one hundred and three native-English speaking adults (18 to 55 years of age) recruited from Eastern Ontario. A total of 8 regression models were tested. The analyses revealed unique contributions of prosodic ability in adult word reading achievement, and EF in silent reading comprehension. Prosody’s contribution to word reading above EF supports prosodic awareness as a phonological skill that can be used to explain individual differences in word reading, whereas EF’s contribution to reading comprehension supports its’ role in more complex reading tasks. Prosody and EF represent constructs that warrant future consideration in models of reading.
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