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Distinct subsystems for the parafoveal processing of spatial and linguistic information during eye fixations in reading

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Two experiments examined readers' use of parafoveally obtained word length information for word recognition. Both experiments manipulated the length (number of constituent characters) of a parafoveally previewed target word so that it was either accurately or inaccurately specified. In Experiment 1, previews also either revealed or denied useful orthographic information. In Experiment 2, parafoveal targets were either high- or low-frequency words. Eye movement contingent display changes were used to show the intact target upon its fixation. Examination of target viewing duration showed completely additive effects of word length previews and of ortho-graphic previews in Experiment 1, viewing duration being shorter in the accurate-length and the orthographic preview conditions. Experiment 2 showed completely additive effects of word length and word frequency, target viewing being shorter in the accurate-length and the high-frequency conditions. Together these results indicate that functionally distinct subsystems control the use of parafoveally visible spatial and linguistic information in reading. Parafoveally visible spatial information appears to be used for two distinct extralinguistic computations: visual object selection and saccade specification.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: State University of New York, Binghamton, USA 2: Technical University at Aachen, Germany 3: University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2003

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