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Adult Age Differences in the Perceptual Span During Reading

Following up on research suggesting an age-related reduction in the rightward extent of the perceptual span during reading (Rayner, Castelhano, & Yang, 2009), we compared old and young adults in an N + 2-boundary paradigm in which a nonword preview of word N + 2 or word N + 2 itself is replaced by the target word once the eyes cross an invisible boundary located after word N. The intermediate word N + 1 was always three letters long. Gaze durations on word N + 2 were significantly shorter for identical than nonword N + 2 preview both for young and for old adults, with no significant difference in this preview benefit. Young adults, however, did modulate their gaze duration on word N more strongly than old adults in response to the difficulty of the parafoveal word N + 1. Taken together, the results suggest a dissociation of preview benefit and parafoveal-on-foveal effect. Results are discussed in terms of age-related decline in resilience towards distributed processing while simultaneously preserving the ability to integrate parafoveal information into foveal processing. As such, the present results relate to proposals of regulatory compensation strategies older adults use to secure an overall reading speed very similar to that of young adults.

from Psychology and Aging

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

Eye Movements and the Perceptual Span in Older and Younger Readers

The size of the perceptual span (or the span of effective vision) in older readers was examined with the moving window paradigm (G. W. McConkie & K. Rayner, 1975). Two experiments demonstrated that older readers have a smaller and more symmetric span than that of younger readers. These 2 characteristics (smaller and more symmetric span) of older readers may be a consequence of their less efficient processing of nonfoveal information, which results in a riskier reading strategy.

from Psychology and Aging