Lecturer's Précis - Gough (1972)

"One Second of Reading"

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First published online 08:59 BST 1st May 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [2.0 - copyright] 09:00 BST 3rd July 2018

An earlier version of this material appeared in Smith (1998; Chapter 5). It is repeated here in simplified form and supported with hyperlinks.


Gough (1972)

See firstly the supporting commentary for this material.


Gough's (1972) "One Second" Model of Reading: Here is a good example of how computing diagrams began to be imported into psychology in the early 1970s. This flow diagram shows how many processes are at work during a mere second's worth of reading aloud. Processing begins with inputs to the visual system (top left), and then flows anticlockwise to the vocal system (top right). Here is what happens next .....

  • The Scanner process scans foveal input for known letters using prelearned Pattern Recognition Routines, and loads the Character Register with what it finds.
  • This is then "operated on" by the Decoder, which converts the visual code into its equivalent phonological code. The grapheme-phoneme conversion rules needed to do this are contained in the Code Book.
  • The resulting phonological trace is stored momentarily in the Phonemic Tape, allowing each word therein to be "looked up" in the Lexicon.
  • The string of successfully identified words is then held in short term memory while more fixations are processed and the grammatical structure of the complete sentence can be analysed. This latter process takes place in Merlin - so-called because it has such magical powers!
  • Equally mysterious is the semantic memory, which Gough wittily refers to as TPWSGWTAU (the place where sentences go when they are understood), on the grounds that its location and internal structure are not known.
  • The final stage is for the Editor to convert semantic code into muscle contractions capable of driving the muscles of the articulatory system, and the meaning and sound rules it needs to do this are contained in Phonological Rules.

If this diagram fails to load automatically, it may be accessed separately at



Redrawn from Gough (1972:345), but with added notes (italicised) and the lexicon and semantic system shaded and shown larger to aid visibility. This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.




Gough, P.B. (1972). One second of reading. In Kavanagh, J.F. & Mattingley, I.G. (Eds.), Language by Ear and by Eye. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Smith, D.J. (1998). Applied Cognitive Psychology. Cardiff: UWIC. [ISBN: 1900666103]