When a student reads a word in their sight word vocabulary because of orthographic mapping (i.e., permanent storage of a word in the brain), their brain follows the faster lexical path.
A faster neural pathway.
This pathway is faster and uses less mental capacity because the brain’s letterbox, which develops in the visual areas of the brain, is specialized for recognizing specific strings of letters (i.e., words). Once a student sees a word (or a specific string of letters) that has been stored in their letterbox, both sound and meaning are quickly activated in the brain.
For some students, this quick recognition occurs after only a few exposures to the word. For other students, it may take many more exposures.
The following figure is a simplified version of the reading brain using the lexical path (based on the work of Dehaene, 2009 and Strom, 2022).
Text and image from aLEARNcoach LLC (www.alearncoach.com).