Investigating letter recognition in the brain by varying typeface: An event-related potential study

Hannah A.D. Keage, Scott Coussens, Mark Kohler, Myra Thiessen, Owen F. Churches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


We aimed to investigate the contributions of visual letter form and abstract letter identity to the time course of letter recognition, by manipulating the typeface (i.e. font) in which letters were presented. Twenty-six adult participants completed a modified one-back task, where letters where presented in easy-to-read typefaces ("fluent" letter stimuli) or difficult-to-read typefaces ("disfluent" letter stimuli). Task instructions necessitated that participant's focus on letter identity not visual letter form. Electroencephalography was collected and event-related potentials (ERPs) were calculated relative to letter stimuli. It was found that typeface affected both early-mid (N1 amplitude and P2-N2 amplitude and latency) and late processing (450-600. ms), thereby including time points whereby it is theorised that abstract identity is extracted from visual letter form (that is, 300. ms post-stimulus). Visual features of the letter therefore affect its processing well beyond the currently theorised point at which abstract information is extracted; which could be explained by a feedback loop between abstract letter representations and lower-level visual form processing units, which is not included in current cognitive reading models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Event-related potential
  • Letter recognition
  • Typeface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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