Dissociating Improvement of Attention and Intelligence during Written Language Acquisition in Adults


About one tenth of the world’s population cannot read and write sufficiently. Cognitive abilities, such as selective attention and crystallized as well as fluid intelligence, have been defined as crucial factors for the acquisition of written language skills. However, it is unclear whether these abilities are necessary also for the alphabetization of adults. Before and after a one-year alphabetization course, we compared the attention and intelligence of 47 illiterate individuals to 41 matched literate controls who did not take part in the alphabetization course. Illiterate individuals improved in selective attention and crystallized intelligence from before to after the alphabetization course; however, they did not reach the same level of functioning as literate controls. In addition, the fluid intelligence of illiterates did not improve. More importantly, when controlling for attention improvement, we found that improvement in crystallized intelligence was associated with alphabetization above and beyond the influence of attention. Our results suggest that alphabetization is closely related to improvements in attention and crystallized intelligence. Specifically, socio-cultural, knowledge- specific learning processes improve during the acquisition of written language skills and may not depend on only the enhancement of the ability to attend to relevant stimuli. Alphabetization programs may, therefore, benefit from distinct considerations of attentional, intellectual, and literacy related skill acquisitions.

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S. Landgraf, R. Beyer, A. Pannekamp, G. Schaadt, D. Koch, M. Foth and E. Meer, "Dissociating Improvement of Attention and Intelligence during Written Language Acquisition in Adults," International Journal of Intelligence Science, Vol. 1 No. 2, 2011, pp. 17-24. doi: 10.4236/ijis.2011.12003.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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