Letter-Like Shape Recognition in Preschool Children: Does Graphomotor Knowledge Contribute?

Publication type: 
Lola Seyll and Alain Content
Seyll, L. and Content, A. (2022) Letter-Like Shape Recognition in Preschool Children: Does Graphomotor Knowledge Contribute? Front. Psychol. 12:726454. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.726454

Based on evidence that learning new characters through handwriting leads to better recognition than learning through typing, some authors proposed that the graphic motor plans acquired through handwriting contribute to recognition. More recently two alternative explanations have been put forward. First, the advantage of handwriting could be due to the perceptual variability that it provides during learning. Second, a recent study suggests that detailed visual analysis might be the source of the advantage of handwriting over typing. Indeed, in that study, handwriting and composition –a method requiring a detailed visual analysis but no specific graphomotor activity– led to equivalent recognition accuracy, both higher than typing. The aim of the present study was to assess whether the contribution of detailed visual analysis is observed in preschool children and to test the variability hypothesis. To that purpose, three groups of preschool children learned new symbols either by handwriting, typing, or composition. After learning, children performed first a four-alternative recognition task and then a categorization task. The same pattern of results as the one observed in adults emerged in the four-alternative recognition task, confirming the importance of the detailed visual analysis in letter-like shape learning. In addition, results failed to reveal any difference across learning methods in the categorization task. The latter results provide no evidence for the variability hypothesis which would predict better categorization after handwriting than after typing or composition. 
Keywords: letter representation, letter recognition, letter categorization, handwriting, graphic motor programs, visual analysis, perceptual variability!

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Frontiers in Psychology