Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Eye Movement Control during Reading: Fixation Measures Reflect Foveal but Not Parafoveal Processing Difficulty

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Eye Movement Control during Reading: Fixation Measures Reflect Foveal but Not Parafoveal Processing Difficulty

Article excerpt

Abstract The main purpose of this study was to determine whether, during natural reading, the difficulty of the upcoming parafoveal word affects eye movement behaviour on the currently fixated word. A model in which visual attention is allocated in parallel over both the fixated and the upcoming parafoveal word predicts such an effect, while a sequential attention allocation model in which attention is directed first to the fixated word and then to the upcoming parafoveal word, does not. The data reported here show that neither the frequency nor the combined length, frequency and class of the upcoming word affect eye movement behaviour on the current word. These data support the sequential attention - parallel programming model of eye movement control in reading.

Resume L'etude que nous avons realisee avait pour principal objet de determiner si, durant la lecture naturelle, la difficulte que pose le mot perifoveal suivant influence la fixation oculaire sur le mot foveal. Un modele dans lequel l'attention visuelle se porte parallelement sur le mot fixe et sur le mot perifoveal suivant predit un tel effet, mais non un modele de repartition sequentielle dans lequel l'attention est d'abord dirigee vers le mot fixe, puis vers le mot perifoveal suivant. D'apres les donnees recueillies, ni la frequence ni la combinaison de la longueur, de la frequence et de la classe du mot suivant n'influencent la fixation sur le mot foveal. Ces donnees appuient le modele de programmation parallele - attention sequentielle relativement au contro@le des mouvements oculaires durant la lecture.

Recently, studies employing eye movement recording techniques have provided a great deal of insight into the nature of the reading process (for reviews, see Just & Carpenter, 1987; Rayner & Pollatsek, 1989). In an innovative use of eye movement recording, McConkie and Rayner (1975) introduced the "moving window" paradigm, in which the amount of text presented to the reader during any given fixation is directly manipulated by changing the display as a function of eye position. Text within the window region is displayed normally, while text outside of the window is mutilated in some way (e.g., replaced with X's). According to the logic of the paradigm, if information that is typically acquired during a fixation is outside of the window (i.e., mutilated), then reading will be disrupted. On the other hand, if the information outside of the window is not typically acquired, then the mutilation beyond the window should produce no disruption. Using this paradigm, researchers have shown that the perceptual span in reading (the region from which useful information is acquired during an eye fixation) is asymmetric, extending from a maximum of about 4 character spaces to the left of the currently fixated character (McConkie & Rayner, 1976; Rayner, Well, & Pollatsek, 1980; Underwood & McConkie, 1985) to a maximum of about 15 character spaces to the right (McConkie & Rayner, 1975; Rayner, Inhoff, Morrison, Slowiaczek, & Bertera, 1981).

One explanation of the asymmetric nature of the perceptual span in reading is that the allocation of visual - spatial attention partially controls the acquisition of information during each eye fixation (Henderson & Ferreira, 1990; McConkie, 1979; Morrison, 1984). In general, it appears that a covert change in the locus of visual - spatial attention precedes an impending saccade to the location about to be fixated (e.g., Bryden, 1961; Crovitz & Daves, 1962; Henderson, 1993; Henderson, Pollatsek, & Rayner, 1989; Rayner, McConkie, & Ehrlich, 1978; Remington, 1980; Shepherd, Findlay, & Hockey, 1986; for a review, see Henderson, 1992). In reading, evidence supporting the hypothesis that the asymmetry of the perceptual span is due to attentional factors is provided by studies showing that the direction of the perceptual span reverses when the text is read from right to left. For example, Pollatsek, Bolozky, Well, and Rayner (1981) found that the perceptual span for readers fluent in both English and Hebrew was asymmetric to the right when they were reading English, but asymmetric to the left when they were reading Hebrew. …

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