Adult age differences in the perceptual span during reading

Sarah Risse, Reinhold Kliegl

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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.

DOI: 10.1037/a0021616

Risse, S., & Kliegl, R. (2011). Adult age differences in the perceptual span during reading. Psychology and Aging, 26, 451-460.