Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology

First Advisor

Janice M. Keenan, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Bruce Pennington

Third Advisor

Jeremy Reynolds


Knowledge, Reading, Word identification


The goal of this dissertation was to understand the relationship between prior domain knowledge, general world knowledge, word identification, and comprehension. Previous research (Priebe, Keenan, & Miller, in press) showed that prior knowledge can facilitate both word identification and fluency, and this dissertation asked whether the effects of prior knowledge also extend to general world knowledge. Three studies aimed at clarifying the distinction between prior domain knowledge and general world knowledge were conducted. Study 1 used a within-subjects design to control for differences in general world knowledge by examining the effects of different levels of prior domain knowledge within the same participant. Poor readers made fewer errors on the passage for which they had prior knowledge, compared to the passage for which they did not have prior knowledge. In addition, both good and poor readers made fewer substitutions that were based solely on graphic information, and made more substitutions that made use of both graphic and semantic information. Study 2 examined whether greater general world knowledge might also affect word identification by using a reading-age match design to create differences in general world knowledge without creating decoding differences. Older readers, regardless of reading ability, read passages more fluently, and a similar effect on error types as observed with prior domain knowledge was obtained as well. The third study examined whether differences in general world knowledge still affected word identification and comprehension when all participants had prior domain knowledge. No significant difference in the overall rate of errors, passage fluency, or comprehension, was observed. These studies suggest that that prior domain knowledge and general world knowledge are similar but separable in their effects on word identification. Implications for remediation and instruction are discussed.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Sarah Jane Priebe


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

83 p.



Included in

Education Commons