Evidence for cognitively controlled saccade targeting in reading


It is generally assumed that the character position targeted within a particular word is not under direct cognitive control, but is rather determined by oculomotor processes sensitive only to word length and distance. An alternative view is that readers target more distant characters in words when they have parafoveally processed these words more. These possibilities are difficult to distinguish because the actual landing site within a word has large effects on subsequent word processing measures. In two experiments, we decoupled the targeted location from the actual landing site by shifting the text 3 characters during the saccade into a target word. Results show that subsequent word processing time given a particular landing site was lower/higher when the eyes would have landed further forward/backward in the word. This effect remains significant in some cases when controlling for saccade launch site. These data provide evidence against the oculomotor theory and support a cognitive account of saccade targeting.

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