Evidence for Direct Control of Eye Movements During Reading

Michael Dambacher, Timothy J. Slattery, Jinmian Yang, Reinhold Kliegl, Keith Rayner

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It is well established that fixation durations during reading vary with processing difficulty, but there are different views on how oculomotor control, visual perception, shifts of attention, and lexical (and higher cognitive) processing are coordinated. Evidence for a one-to-one translation of input delay into saccadic latency would provide a much needed constraint for current theoretical proposals. Here, we tested predictions of such a direct-control perspective using the stimulus-onset delay (SOD) paradigm. Words in sentences were initially masked and, on fixation, were individually unmasked with a delay (0-, 33-, 66-, 99-ms SODs). In Experiment 1, SODs were constant for all words in a sentence; in Experiment 2, SODs were manipulated on target words, while nontargets were unmasked without delay. In accordance with predictions of direct control, nonzero SODs entailed equivalent increases in fixation durations in both experiments. Yet, a population of short fixations pointed to rapid saccades as a consequence of low-level information at nonoptimal viewing positions rather than of lexical processing. Implications of these results for theoretical accounts of oculomotor control are discussed.

doi: 10.1037/a0031647