Evidence for Delayed Parafoveal-on-Foveal Effects From Word n+2 in Reading

Sarah Risse, Reinhold Kliegl

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During reading information is acquired from word(s) beyond the word that is currently looked at. It is still an open question whether such parafoveal information can influence the current viewing of a word, and if so, whether such parafoveal-on-foveal effects are attributable to distributed processing or to mislocated fixations which occur when the eyes are directed at a parafoveal word but land on another word instead. In two display-change experiments, we orthogonally manipulated the preview and target difficulty of word n+2 to investigate the role of mislocated fixations on the previous word n+1. When the eyes left word n, an easy or difficult word n+2 preview was replaced by an easy or difficult n+2 target word. In Experiment 1, n+2 processing difficulty was manipulated by means of word frequency (i.e., easy high-frequency vs. difficult low-frequency word n+2). In Experiment 2, we varied the visual familiarity of word n+2 (i.e., easy lower-case vs. difficult alternating-case writing). Fixations on the short word n+1, which were likely to be mislocated, were nevertheless not influenced by the difficulty of the adjacent word n+2, the hypothesized target of the mislocated fixation. Instead word n+1 was influenced by the preview difficulty of word n+2, representing a delayed parafoveal-on-foveal effect. The results challenge the mislocated-fixation hypothesis as an explanation of parafoveal-on-foveal effects and provide new insight into the complex spatial and temporal effect structure of processing inside the perceptual span during reading.

Journal of Experimental Psycholog: Human Perception and Performance