Hazel Blythe
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Personal profile

Research interests

My research interests are primarily in typical and atypical literacy development in children.  I have a wider interest in children’s cognitive development, particularly in the field of visual cognition.  Specific areas of interest include: 

Phonological processing during reading.  In recent years, I have become particularly interested in readers’ processing of phonological information during reading.  My research in this area has demonstrated phonological recoding – rapid, automated, pre-lexical activation of abstract phonological codes – in children as young as 7 years, in profoundly to severely deaf teenagers, and in teenagers with dyslexia.  Across this series of experiments, the data provide compelling evidence for a robust developmental transition from phonological decoding to recoding.

Children’s eye movements during reading.  This approach has allowed me to examine the influence of linguistic manipulations as well as the time course of visual information extraction, across both English and Finnish. As well as using eye movement data to inform understanding of cognitive processing of language for fixated words, I am also interested in children’s development of parafoveal pre-processing.

Binocular coordination during reading.   I am interested in the coordination of the two eyes during reading, in adults as well as typically and atypically developing children.  My research in this area has included investigation the effects of both visual and linguistic manipulations upon binocular coordination, and the nature and extent of shared retinal inputs that are required for successful reading.  I have also directly examined the question of whether atypical binocular coordination is a causal factor in developmental dyslexia.

Reading in Chinese.  In collaboration with colleagues at Tianjin Normal University, I investigate the role of word spacing in Chinese reading.  Specifically, can Chinese readers benefit from the insertion of word spaces, where such spacing is not usually present; if so, under which circumstances?  To date, we have demonstrated benefits of word spacing to the learning of new words in skilled adult readers, beginning readers, and second language learners.

Word learning during reading.  Vocabulary is an important building block for successful literacy acquisition, and it is clear that there is a tight link between reading and vocabulary; children who receive explicit vocabulary training show improvements in their reading. A substantial proportion of our vocabulary is not explicitly taught to us, but is learned incidentally during silent reading. We encounter words that we do not yet know within a meaningful context, and form a new cognitive representation for those words incrementally over multiple exposures, with that representation becoming more detailed over time  I am interested in the process of word learning during reading, and the factors that influence the efficiency of that process.

Biography

I completed my P.H. at the University of Southampton under the supervision of Prof. Simon Liversedge.  I then worked there for several years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, supported by funding from the ESRC, the MRC, and the Leverhulme Trust.  I took my first Lectureship there in 2014, before moving to Northumbria University in 2019 as a Senior Lecturer.

Education/Academic qualification

Psychology, MA, Durham University

Psychology, PhD, University of Southampton

Psychology, BSc (Hons), University of York

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