Comparing word recognition in simplified and traditional Chinese: A megastudy approach

Yiu Kei Tsang*, Jian Huang, Suiping Wang, Jie Wang, Andus Wing Kuen Wong

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Although it is well established that the visual complexity of a written word can influence processing, it is far less clear from a cross-script perspective, whether the overall visual complexity of the entire written lexicon also affects word recognition. This question can be answered with the data in megastudy of lexical decision in Chinese (MELD-CH), which was developed with over 800 participants responding to 12,587 simplified and traditional Chinese words. The results showed that lexical decision was slower but more accurate in simplified Chinese, which has about 22.5% less strokes, than traditional Chinese. This pattern could not be explained by a speed–accuracy trade-off. Moderate correlations were found in response times and error rates between the two scripts, indicating considerable overlap in processing despite the script difference. In addition, (generalised) linear mixed-effects modelling was used to examine whether the simplified and traditional Chinese groups differed in sensitivity towards linguistic variables. The results showed that the effects of word frequency, word length, and number of strokes were stronger in recognising simplified Chinese words, whereas the effects of number of words formed and number of meanings of the constituent characters were stronger in traditional Chinese. These results suggested that the visual-perceptual processing demands of simplified Chinese might force readers to focus more on local properties of the words, making them less sensitive to global properties that are defined over the entire lexicon. Finally, limitations and alternative explanations of the results were discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-610
Number of pages18
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date8 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Physiology

User-Defined Keywords

  • megastudy
  • simplified Chinese
  • traditional Chinese
  • visual complexity
  • word recognition
  • Simplified Chinese


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