How literacy shapes cognition
Reading and writing are very 'new' skills, when you consider the timescale of human evolution. In order to learn to read and write, we have to make use of pre-existing brain structures and networks, including those for visual perception and speech perception and production. In acquiring literacy, however, these networks undergo changes that can affect their suitability for their original purpose.
In a project with the Cultural Brain group at the Max Planck Institute, we collected data from more than 150 socioeconomically matched literate and illiterate participants from Chennai (Tamil Nadu, India) we investigate how acquiring literacy affects visual perception (including object and face recognition and perception of mirror invariance) and speech perception and production (including awareness of phonemes/syllables and perceptual learning of phoneme distinctions).