Word Recognition

Authored by: Theresa A. Roberts , Catherine Christo , John A. Shefelbine

Handbook of Reading Research: Volume IV

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9780805853421
eBook ISBN: 9780203840412
Adobe ISBN: 9781136891427


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In 1986 Benjamin Bloom published an article titled “Automaticity: The Hands and Feet of Genius” in which he discussed the results of 5 years of research examining the characteristics of those who were experts in their fields. In describing the importance of practice and the development of automaticity critical to reaching mastery in any field, Bloom referred back to the work of Bryan and Harper and an 1899 article from their work with Morse code operators. The quote is as relevant today to a discussion of word recognition as it was in the late 1800s to the development of proficiency in sending and receiving Morse code:

The learner must come to do with one stroke of attention what now requires half a dozen, and presently in one still more inclusive stroke what now requires thirty-six. He must systematize the work to be done and must acquire a system of automatic habits corresponding to the system of tasks. When he has done this he is the master of the situation in his (occupational, professional) field…Finally, his whole array of habits is swiftly obedient to serve in the solution of new problems. Automatism is not genius, it is the hands and feet of genius.

(Bryan & Harper, cited in Bloom, 1986, p. 72)

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