Interpreting chicken-scratch: Lexical access for handwritten words

Anthony S. Barnhart, Stephen Goldinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Handwritten word recognition is a field of study that has largely been neglected in the psychological literature, despite its prevalence in society. Whereas studies of spoken word recognition almost exclusively employ natural, human voices as stimuli, studies of visual word recognition use synthetic typefaces, thus simplifying the process of word recognition. The current study examined the effects of handwriting on a series of lexical variables thought to influence bottom-up and top-down processing, including word frequency, regularity, bidirectional consistency, and imageability. The results suggest that the natural physical ambiguity of handwritten stimuli forces a greater reliance on top-down processes, because almost all effects were magnified, relative to conditions with computer print. These findings suggest that processes of word perception naturally adapt to handwriting, compensating for physical ambiguity by increasing top-down feedback.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)906-923
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Handwriting
  • Lexical access
  • Reading
  • Top-down processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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