Parafoveal processing in word recognition
Two experiments investigated the degree to which properties of a word presented in the parafovea influenced the time to process a word undergoing concurrent foveal inspection. In Experiment 1, subjects viewed a set of five-letter words at a fixed point, with words in parafoveal vision varying in length, word frequency, and both the type and token frequency of occurrence of their initial three letters. The results showed that the frequency of the target and the type frequency of its initial letters influenced foveal fixation time. In Experiment 2, subjects executed a sequence of saccades before initial fixation on the experimental items. Under these circumstances, fixation time was shorter overall. Lexical properties of parafoveal words had no effect on foveal processing, but the length and the type frequency of their initial letters exerted a strong influence. Parafoveal-on-foveal effects of this form are incompatible with models of reading in which attention is allocated sequentially to successive words. The data are more consistent with the proposition that foveal and parafoveal processing occurs in parallel, with processing distributed over a region larger than a single word. Subsidiary analyses showed little influence of any of the manipulated variables on saccade extent.
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