Word Superiority Effect and Parallel Processing
One experiment about cognitive brain functioning is the word superiority effect findings of Dr. Reicher in 1969. In this experiment either a word or a non-word (string of letters) is flashed on a screen. The subject is asked if the stimulus contained one of two letters, say a “C” or an “E”. When the stimulus did not resemble a word (e.g., XXCX) subjects were correct in identifying the target letter about 80% of the time. When the string of letters was similar to a word but not one (e.g., FELV) the subjects also correctly identified the target letter 80% of the time. However, the interesting finding was that when the stimulus was a word (e.g., TEND), subjects were correct in identification 90% of the time. So the word superiority effect is that subjects are most accurate in identifying a target letter when it is contained in a word as opposed to a string of letters.
This lends support to the theory that there are things that we can process in parallel and that that parallel processing (or parallel activation of word and letter) can be beneficial at times (such as helping subjects correctly identify individual letters more often when the letter is contained within a word rather than in a random string of letters). In other words, the whole word is recognized before all the letters individually are recognized. This then speeds up or aids processing because there are now a couple routes, per se, to that letter; there is the visual stimulus (seeing the letter) and the linguistic information (knowing that the letter is in the word) that both are activated and help people recognize letters better.
Image by uncommonmuse.