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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Visual discrimination of alphabet letters by preschool children Bain, David Alexander


The purpose of the present study was to ascertain from the research literature on alphabet legibility and geometric form discrimination what minimum number and nature of changes could be made to the letters b, d , p and q to increase the ability of preschool children to discriminate vertical, horizontal and rotational changes in orientation of the letters. In accordance with the research evidence the stem of each letter was replaced by a solid black, right-angle triangle. For each letter the smallest angle of the triangle was uppermost, the right-angle was in the bottom left-hand corner, and a small white circle was imbedded in the right-angle. The base of the triangle was equal in width to the diameter of the eye of the letters. To test the hypothesis that for preschool children horizontal, vertical and rotational changes in orientation of the modified letters would be more discriminable than identical orientation changes of the standard letters a four-to-one match to sample format was used. In this format one stimulus letter was to be matched with an identical letter contained within a matrix of three letters each depicting a different orientation of the stimulus letter. Kindergarten children between the ages of 4.6 and 5.6 were selected in terms of their performance on two screening tests. Thirty-six children were included in the sample with 18 subjects in each treatment group. One screening test used simple geometric shapes to assess the child's fundamental understanding of the concept of similarity, and his ability to respond adequately to the four-to-one match to sample format. The second screening and training test reinforced the child, verbally and with candy to attend to orientation cues; the subject was required to manually reorient a response figure to match in sequence a number of sample figures each of which represented one of the three alternative orientations. The subjects were then given an error base-rate test of twenty-four, four-to-one match to sample formats comprising all permutations of the standard letters b, d , p and q . In accordance with their scores on this test (total number of correct discriminations) subjects were assigned by the randomized blocks design to the control and experimental groups. For the treatment, the control group was given the pretest again while the experimental group was given a test in identical format using the modified characters. Statistical analysis of the gain scores (number of correct discriminations on the treatment test minus number of correct discriminations on the error base-rate test) indicated that the modified letters significantly improved discrimination of orientational changes at the .025 level of significance, and that no significant difference existed between the performance of males and females.

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