University of Jyväskylä

Reading is seeing

Do you realize fixating almost every word while reading? This is because of our limitations in acuity vision and visual attention spans, yet previous research have not been able to convincible separate these factors from each other. JY researchers Jarkko Hautala and Otto Loberg solved this problem by comparing reading of spatially narrow and wide words such as ‘tiili’ (brick) and ‘mummo’ (grandma) containing varying number of letters. The results showed that spatial width of the word was more crucial than number of letters in determining reader’s eye movements: narrow vs. wide words were skipped over more often, while wide words received often two progressive fixations. The researchers suggest that the main function of eye movements during reading are to provide high quality visual perception of entire word. While number of letters in a word was the main determinant of fixation durations, spatially most crowded words received also slightly longer fixation durations. The article was published in the July 20th in Language, Cognition and Neuroscience -journal.

More information:
Jarkko Hautala,, 0505895302

Otto Loberg,, 0503258798

Video sample of readers’ eye movements. Notice that spatially narrow target word ‘olut’ is not fixated at all. The size of the balls reflect fixation duration, and lines eye movements i.e. saccades.

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