Blog Archives

What is the scanpath signature of syntactic reanalysis?

Which repair strategy does the language system deploy when it gets garden-pathed, and what can regressive eye movements in reading tell us about reanalysis strategies? Several influential eye-tracking studies on syntactic reanalysis ([Frazier and Rayner, 1982], [Meseguer et al., 2002] and [Mitchell et al., 2008]) have addressed this question by examining scanpaths, i.e., sequential patterns of eye fixations. However, in the absence of a suitable method for analyzing scanpaths, these studies relied on simplified dependent measures that are arguably ambiguous and hard to interpret. We address the theoretical question of repair strategy by developing a new method that quantifies scanpath similarity. Our method reveals several distinct fixation strategies associated with reanalysis that went undetected in a previously published data set (Meseguer et al., 2002). One prevalent pattern suggests re-parsing of the sentence, a strategy that has been discussed in the literature (Frazier & Rayner, 1982); however, readers differed tremendously in how they orchestrated the various fixation strategies. Our results suggest that the human parsing system non-deterministically adopts different strategies when confronted with the disambiguating material in garden-path sentences.

from the Journal of Memory and Language


Effects of individual differences in verbal skills on eye-movement patterns during sentence reading

This study is a large-scale exploration of the influence that individual reading skills exert on eye-movement behavior in sentence reading. Seventy-one non-college-bound 16–24 year-old speakers of English completed a battery of 18 verbal and cognitive skill assessments, and read a series of sentences as their eye-movements were monitored. Statistical analyses were performed to establish what tests of reading abilities were predictive of eye-movement patterns across this population and how strong the effects were. We found that individual scores in rapid automatized naming and word identification tests (i) were the only participant variables with reliable predictivity throughout the time-course of reading; (ii) elicited effects that superceded in magnitude the effects of established predictors like word length or frequency; and (iii) strongly modulated the influence of word length and frequency on fixation times. We discuss implications of our findings for testing reading ability, as well as for research of eye-movements in reading.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Eye Movements of Older and Younger Readers When Reading Disappearing Text

Older and younger readers read sentences in which target words were masked 40 to 60 ms after fixation onset. Masking only the target word caused more disruption than did masking each word in the sentence, and this effect was stronger for the younger readers than for the older readers. Although older readers had longer eye fixations than did younger readers, the results indicated that the masking effect was comparable for the 2 groups. However, for both groups, how long the eyes remained in place was strongly influenced by the frequency of the fixated word (even though it had been rapidly replaced by the mask and was no longer there when the eyes did move). This is compelling evidence that for both older and younger readers, cognitive/lexical processing has a very strong influence on when the eyes move in reading.

from Psychology and Aging

Semantic Categories and Context in L2 Vocabulary Learning

This article extends recent findings that presenting semantically related vocabulary simultaneously inhibits learning. It does so by adding story contexts. Participants learned 32 new labels for known concepts from four different semantic categories in stories that were either semantically related (one category per story) or semantically unrelated (four categories per story). They then completed a semantic-categorization task, followed by a stimulus-match verification task in an eye-tracker. Results suggest that there may be a slight learning advantage in the semantically unrelated condition. However, our findings are better interpreted in terms of how learning occurred and how vocabulary was processed afterward. Additionally, our results suggest that contextual support from the stories may have surmounted much of the disadvantage attributed to semantic relatedness.

from Language Learning

Chance in agrammatic sentence comprehension: What does it really mean? Evidence from eye movements of German agrammatic aphasic patients

Conclusions: These findings constitute evidence against attributing IWAs’ chance performance for non-canonical structures to mere guessing. Instead, our results support processing deficit explanations and characterise the agrammatic parser as deterministic and inefficient: it is slowed down, affected by intermittent deficiencies in performing syntactic operations, and fails to compute reanalysis even when one is detected.

from Aphasiology

Do patients with pure alexia suffer from a specific word form processing deficit? Evidence from ‘wrods with trasnpsoed letetrs’

It is widely accepted that letter-by-letter reading and a pronounced increase in reading time as a function of word length are the hallmark features of pure alexia. Why patients show these two phenomena with respect to underlying cognitive mechanisms is, however, much less clear. Two main hypotheses have been proposed, i.e. impaired discrimination of letters and deficient processing of word forms. While the former deficit can easily be investigated in isolation, previous findings favouring the latter seem confounded. Applying a word reading paradigm with systematically manipulated letter orders in two patients with pure alexia, we demonstrate a word form processing deficit that is not attributable to sublexical letter discrimination difficulties. Moreover, pure alexia-like fixation patterns could be induced in healthy adults by having them read sentences including words with transposed letters, so-called ‘jumbled words’. This further corroborates a key role of deficient word form processing in pure alexia. With regard to basic reading research, the present study extends recent evidence for relative, rather than precise, encoding of letter position in the brain.

from Neuropsychologia

Preview Benefit During Eye Fixations in Reading for Older and Younger Readers

Older and younger readers read sentences as their eye movements were recorded, and the boundary paradigm (Rayner, 1975) was used to present either a valid or an invalid parafoveal preview of a target word. During the saccade to the target word, the preview word changed to the target word. For early measures of processing time (first fixation duration and single fixation duration), the standard preview benefit effect (shorter fixation times on the target word with a valid preview than an invalid preview) was obtained for both older and younger readers. However, for gaze duration and go-past time, the preview benefit was somewhat attenuated in the older readers in comparison to the younger readers, suggesting that on some fixations older readers obtain less preview benefit from the word to the right of fixation.

from Psychology and Aging

Real-time processing of gender-marked articles by native and non-native Spanish speakers

Three experiments using online-processing measures explored whether native and non-native Spanish-speaking adults use gender-marked articles to identify referents of target nouns more rapidly, as shown previously with 3-year-old children learning Spanish as L1 (Lew-Williams & Fernald, 2007). In Experiment 1, participants viewed familiar objects with names of either the same or different grammatical gender while listening to Spanish sentences referring to one object. L1 adults, like L1 children, oriented to the target more rapidly on different-gender trials, when the article was informative about noun identity; however, L2 adults did not. Experiments 2 and 3 controlled for frequency of exposure to article–noun pairs by using novel nouns. L2 adults could not exploit gender information when different article–noun pairs were used in teaching and testing. Experience-related factors may influence how L1 adults and children and L2 adults—who learned Spanish at different ages and in different settings—use grammatical gender in real-time processing.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Eye movement correlates of acquired central dyslexia.

Based on recent progress in theory and measurement techniques, the analysis of eye movements has become one of the major methodological tools in experimental reading research. Our work uses this approach to advance the understanding of impaired information processing in acquired central dyslexia of stroke patients with aphasia. Up to now there has been no research attempting to analyze both word-based viewing time measures and local fixation patterns in dyslexic readers. The goal of the study was to find out whether specific eye movement parameters reflect pathologically preferred segmental reading in contrast to lexical reading.

We compared oral reading of single words of normal controls (n = 11) with six aphasic participants (two cases of deep, surface and residual dyslexia each). Participants were asked to read aloud lines of target words differing in length and frequency. Segmental reading was characterized by deviant spatial distribution of saccadic landing positions with initial fixations located mainly at the beginning of the word, while lexical readers showed the normative ’preferred landing positions’ left to the center of the words. Contrary to expectation, word length did not distinguish between segmental and lexical readers, while word frequency showed the expected effect for lexical readers only. Their mean fixation duration was already prolonged during first pass reading reflecting their attempts of immediate access to lexical information. After first pass reading, re-reading time was significantly increased in all participants with acquired central dyslexia due to their exceedingly higher monitoring demands for oral reading.

from Neuropsychologia

Poor Stroop performances in 15-year-old dyslexic teenagers

The Stroop test enables interference between color naming and reading to be studied. Protopapas et al. (2007) reported more errors in an interference task and longer reaction times in 12.5-year-old dyslexics; also more Stroop interference with lower reading skills. The present study uses a version of the Stroop with four color cards and aims to test interference and flexibility in older dyslexic teenagers. The four cards are: color naming, reading, interference and flexibility. In the latter, subjects have to name the color of the word inhibiting reading except when the word is inside a box. This flexibility task enables the testing of the capacity for cognitive switching between tasks. Ten dyslexics (15.1 ± 0.7 years old) and fourteen controls (14.3 ± 1.6 years old) participated in the study. All performed the color naming, the reading, the interference and the flexibility tasks in the same order. Subsequently, they performed a sequence of 60 saccades left–right followed by the interference task. Generally, dyslexic teenagers behaved similarly to non-dyslexics as they showed fewer errors in reading and color than in the interference and flexibility tasks. However, they made more errors and needed more time to accomplish each task than non-dyslexics. The results suggest that the inhibitory and attention processes required by the Stroop test are dysfunctioning even in older dyslexics. In contrast, the study shows no evidence for particular difficulty in the flexibility task, which would constitute an argument against problems with mental switching. Following the execution of saccades, errors in the interference test were significantly reduced for dyslexics, while the time was reduced for both groups. The effects are attributed to visual attention training via saccades.

from Experimental Brain Research

Parafoveal processing during reading is reduced across a morphological boundary

A boundary change manipulation was implemented within a monomorphemic word (e.g., fountaom as a preview for fountain), where parallel processing should occur given adequate visual acuity, and within an unspaced compound (bathroan as a preview for bathroom), where some serial processing of the constituents is likely. Consistent with that hypothesis, there was no effect of the preview manipulation on fixation time on the 1st constituent of the compound, whereas there was on the corresponding letters of the monomorphemic word. There was also a larger preview disruption on gaze duration on the whole monomorphemic word than on the compound, suggesting more parallel processing within monomorphemic words.

from Cognition

Speech-and-gesture integration in high functioning autism

This study examined iconic gesture comprehension in autism, with the goal of assessing whether cross-modal processing difficulties impede speech-and-gesture integration. Participants were 19 adolescents with high functioning autism (HFA) and 20 typical controls matched on age, gender, verbal IQ, and socio-economic status (SES). Gesture comprehension was assessed via quantitative analyses of visual fixations during a video-based task, using the visual world paradigm. Participants’ eye movements were recorded while they watched videos of a person describing one of four shapes shown on a computer screen, using speech-and-gesture or speech-only descriptions. Participants clicked on the shape that the speaker described. Since gesture naturally precedes speech, earlier visual fixations to the target shape during speech-and-gesture compared to speech-only trials, would suggest immediate integration of auditory and visual information. Analyses of eye movements supported this pattern in control participants but not in individuals with autism: iconic gestures facilitated comprehension in typical individuals, while it hindered comprehension in those with autism. Cross-modal processing difficulties in autism were not accounted for by impaired unimodal speech or gesture processing. The results have important implications for the treatment of children and adults with this disorder.

from Cognition

Visual word recognition during reading is followed by subvocal articulation.

Three experiments examined whether the identification of a visual word is followed by its subvocal articulation during reading. An irrelevant spoken word (ISW) that was identical, phonologically similar, or dissimilar to a visual target word was presented when the eyes moved to the target in the course of sentence reading. Sentence reading was further accompanied by either a sequential finger tapping task (Experiment 1) or an articulatory suppression task (Experiment 2). Experiment 1 revealed sound-specific interference from a phonologically similar ISW during posttarget viewing. This interference was absent in Experiment 2, where similar and dissimilar ISWs impeded target and posttarget reading equally. Experiment 3 showed that articulatory suppression left the lexical processing of visual words intact and that it did not diminish the influence of visual word recognition on eye guidance. The presence of sound-specific interference during posttarget reading in Experiment 1 is attributed to deleterious effects of a phonologically similar ISW on the subvocal articulation of a target. Its absence in Experiment 2 is attributed to the suppression of a target’s subvocal articulation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

from Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

Processing trade-offs in the reading of Dutch derived words

This eye-tracking study explores visual recognition of Dutch suffixed words (e.g., plaats+ing “placing”) embedded in sentential contexts, and provides new evidence on the interplay between storage and computation in morphological processing. We show that suffix length crucially moderates the use of morphological properties. In words with shorter suffixes, we observe a stronger effect of full-forms (derived word frequency) on reading times than in words with longer suffixes. Also, processing times increase if the base word (plaats) and the suffix (-ing) differ in the amount of information carried by their morphological families (sets of words that share the base or the suffix). We model this imbalance of informativeness in the morphological families with the information-theoretical measure of relative entropy and demonstrate its predictivity for the processing times. The observed processing trade-offs are discussed in the context of current models of morphological processing.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Right visual field advantage in parafoveal processing: Evidence from eye-fixation-related potentials

Readers acquire information outside the current eye fixation. Previous research indicates that having only the fixated word available slows reading, but when the next word is visible, reading is almost as fast as when the whole line is seen. Parafoveal-on-foveal effects are interpreted to reflect that the characteristics of a parafoveal word can influence fixation on a current word. Prior studies also show that words presented to the right visual field (RVF) are processed faster and more accurately than words in the left visual field (LVF). This asymmetry results either from an attentional bias, reading direction, or the cerebral asymmetry of language processing. We used eye-fixation-related potentials (EFRP), a technique that combines eye-tracking and electroencephalography, to investigate visual field differences in parafoveal-on-foveal effects. After a central fixation, a prime word appeared in the middle of the screen together with a parafoveal target that was presented either to the LVF or to the RVF. Both hemifield presentations included three semantic conditions: the words were either semantically associated, non-associated, or the target was a non-word. The participants began reading from the prime and then made a saccade towards the target, subsequently they judged the semantic association. Between 200 and 280 ms from the fixation onset, an occipital P2 EFRP-component differentiated between parafoveal word and non-word stimuli when the parafoveal word appeared in the RVF. The results suggest that the extraction of parafoveal information is affected by attention, which is oriented as a function of reading direction.

from Brain and Language