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In the cognitive perception of information, top-down and bottom-up processing is crucial for successful reading. In the context of the reading process, the specified element can be defined as the acquisition of sensory information (top-down processing) and the relation of the information acquired (i.e., symbols and letters) to the phenomena and concepts that they denote (Feldman, 2013).
The key elements of bottom-up processing can be traced in the specified example quite easily in the course of reading the text provided. The person reading the text acquires the basic information, which is needed for understanding the text, from the first and the last letter of each word, as the author of the text suggests. These pieces of information are crucial for the following analysis of the text and the development of resistance to the mistakes in spelling that the text in question features.
Hence, the bottom-up processing in a case in point is restricted to the recognition of the fist and the last letter of the words. As soon as the reader handles the recognition of these letters, the former is transferred to the next stage of information processing – the interpretation of the initial message and the following development of suppositions regarding the data that will ensue. It would be wrong to claim, though, that the bottom-up processing has no significance in decoding the phrase – quite on the contrary, the given processing stage launches the reader’s ability to think logically and build expectations for the incoming messages.
The top-down processing of the phrase under consideration, or the recognition of the sensory data acquired from reading the line, may seem quite obvious and not needing an explanation. Indeed, reading as a phenomenon is quite simple – the decoding of the images on the paper and their further transformation into sounds, as well as the relation of these sounds to specific phenomena and objects that they denote, is a fairly well-known process. Mentioned in a variety of sources, reading is traditionally defined as a complex cognitive process (Reingold, Reichle, Glaholt & Sheridana, 2013), which means that the top-down process and the interpretation of the meaning of the words is the essential part of reading.
It should be born in mind, though, that with jumbled words reading, the top-down process becomes not only essential, but also the central process for the reader to focus on. Indeed, the existing definition of top-down processing as far as reading is concerned mentions the usage of previous experiences to perceive the message behind the text. By incorporating the top-down processing strategy into the reading process, a person builds certain expectations for the context of the text that is unwrapping in front of the reader. Consequently, the latter use their experience to create a certain context, in which the next portion of the message is going to be perceived (Price & Devlin, 2011).
At first, it might seem that in the context of the specified phrase, the bottom-up process becomes practically unattainable. Indeed, with the key means of decoding messages mixed completely, the entire concept of reading seems pointless. A practical experience, however, proves that a seemingly confusing line can be read comparatively easily; more to the point, the message behind the text instantly becomes entirely clear, even though the letters in words are jumbled.
This does not mean, however, that the bottom-up process does not occur when a person reads the line in question – quite on the contrary, the bottom-up processing procedure is launched immediately after one starts reading the message. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that both processes occur in one’s mind in the course of reading the sentence. The key to understanding the role of these processes is, therefore, not in the choice of the top-down or the bottom-up approach, but in the order, in which they occur.
Indeed, it is clear that the top-down processing, which is launched first, allows identifying the meaning of the phrase mentioned above and, therefore, disregarding the minor inconsistencies with the ay, in which the phrase has been written. Starting from the highest level of linguistic analysis – the semantic analysis of the message – a person fills in the information gaps on their own, therefore, acquiring the necessary data in an orderly manner. The top-down processing, nevertheless, also takes place in the given an example; its key stages can be traced at the stage of understanding the message behind the symbols. As soon as the reader realizes that the design of the words in the sentence supports the key idea of words readability, they are capable of recognizing the words written with their letters jumbled rather easily because they set specific expectations for these words. For example, a relatively confusing word “iprmoetnt” is read quite easily, since the context of the sentence – or, to be more exact, the words that have already been decoded – allow suggesting what the next word or phrase is going to be (i.e., “the only important thing,” “the only thing that matters,” etc.). In other words, the text invites the reader to become the co-creator of the message, thus, giving the latter the key to understanding its meaning. As a result, the key differences between the top-down and bottom-up processing stages truly shine through.
Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of Understanding Psychology (10th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Humanities & Social Sciences.
Price, C. J. & Devlin, J. T. (2011). The interactive account of ventral occipitotemporal contributions to reading. Trends in Cognitive Science, 15(6), 246–253.
Reingold, E. M., Reichle, E. D., Glaholt, M. G. & Sheridana, H. (2013). Direct lexical control of eye movements in reading: Evidence from a survival analysis of fixation durations. Cognitive Psychology, 65(2), 177–206.