★ We measured word processing speed in peripheral vision with a saccadic choice task. ★ We provide the fastest behavioral measure of word–nonword discrimination time. ★ Fastest saccade latencies to target words were around 200 ms. ★ Word–nonword discrimination was nevertheless a difficult task to perform.
A saccadic choice task (Kirchner & Thorpe, 2006) was used to measure word processing speed in peripheral vision. To do so, word targets were accompanied by distractor stimuli, which were random strings of consonants presented in the contralateral visual field. Participants were also tested with the animal stimuli of Kirchner and Thorpe's original study. The results obtained with the animal stimuli provide a straightforward replication of prior findings, with the estimated fastest saccade latencies to animal targets being 140 ms. With the word targets, the fastest reliable saccades occurred with latencies of around 200 ms. The results obtained with word targets provide a timing estimate for word processing in peripheral vision that is incompatible with sequential-attention-shift (SAS) accounts of eye movement control in reading.