Sentences and Texts

Self-Paced Reading

Self-paced reading mit moving window-Paradigma | Self-paced reading with moving
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

In the self-paced reading-task stimuli are presented on a computer screen but masked by a place holder (e.g. ~) at first. Participants can “uncover” words step by step by pressing a key at their own speed. One method is the cumulative window where additional words are uncovered with every key press. On the contrary, using the moving window-paradigm, the former word is masked again by the next key press, thus making looking back impossible. Afterwards, the participants are asked to answer yes-/no-questions about the sentence or text content to ensure comprehension. The time interval between key presses is measured to analyze processing speed. Besides, the adaptation of participants to lexical characteristics such as length and frequency of the words they read is examined. Results provide important diagnostic information about individual difficulties in reading.

Eye Tracking

The visual span of a reader | MPFG "REaD"
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

With eye tracking, eye movements of the reader are measured. Modern eye tracking methods use an infrared light source to shine light off of the reader’s eye. A small camera is used to pick up two areas of the eye: the center of the pupil and a reflection off of the surface of the eye. These two points are used to calculate where a participant is looking on the screen. A chin rest helps to steady the participant’s head while reading. The high spatial (1 letter) and temporal (1 ms) resolution of such techniques is critical for this kind of research.

The center of a reader’s field of vision, the foveal region corresponding to the central 2° of the visual field, is where visual acuity is highest. The acuity of the fovea is essential for the processing of letter features. However, readers can also make use of information in the parafovea, which extends out to about 5° to either side of the point of fixation. Little can be derived from the outermost peripheral region. In writing systems that are read from left to right, the parafoveal and peripheral visual fields develop a skew to the right in the direction of reading.

The Boundary Eye Tracking Method

The Boundary Paradigm | MPFG "REaD"
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

In the boundary paradigm, sentences are presented as a single line of text, each with an embedded target word. These targets are presented as manipulated previews until the reader’s eyes move to bring them into focus. An invisible boundary directly before the target word triggers when the first saccade crosses it. At this point, the preview is exchanged with the target word.

To assess the sensitivity to the phonology of a word (e.g., "clue"), previews can be presented with spelling errors which produced pseudohomophones of the target words (e.g., "clew") or controls (e.g., "clom").If readers are able to identify pseudohomophones more quickly than the controls, this suggests sensitivity to phonological information. Likewise, the sensitivity to the orthography of a word (e.g., "band") can be assessed by presenting previews in which the position of adjacent letters are exchanged (e.g., "bnad"), or controls (e.g., "bcod"). If readers are able to identify the transposed targets more quickly than the controls, this suggests sensitivity to orthographical information of letter identity in the parafovea.