Reading Sentences of Uniform Word Length: Evidence for the Adaptation of the Preferred Saccade Length During Reading

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In the current study, the effect of removing word length variability within sentences on spatial aspects of eye movements during reading was investigated. Participants read sentences that were uniform in terms of word length, with each sentence consisting entirely of three-, four-, or five-letter words, or a combination of these word lengths. Several interesting findings emerged. Adaptation of the preferred saccade length occurred for sentences with different uniform word length; participants would be more accurate at making short saccades while reading uniform sentences of three-letter words, while they would be more accurate at making long saccades while reading uniform sentences of five-letter words. Furthermore, word skipping was affected such that three- and four-letter words were more likely, and five-letter words less likely, to be directly fixated in uniform compared to non-uniform sentences. It is argued that saccadic targeting during reading is highly adaptable and flexible toward the characteristics of the text currently being read, as opposed to the idea implemented in most current models of eye movement control during reading that readers develop a preference for making saccades of a certain length across a lifetime of experience with a given language.

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