The Role of Information in Visual Word Recognition: A Perceptually-Constrained Connectionist Account

AbstractProficient readers typically fixate near the center of a word, with a slight bias towards word onset. We explore a novel account of this phenomenon based on combining information-theory with visual perceptual constraints in a connectionist model of visual word recognition. This account posits that the amount of information-content available for word identification varies across fixation locations and across languages, thereby explaining the overall fixation location bias in different languages, making the novel prediction that certain words are more readily identified when fixating at an atypical fixation location, and predicting specific cross-linguistic differences. We tested these predictions across several simulations in English and Hebrew, and in a pilot behavioral experiment. Results confirmed that the bias to fixate closer to word onset aligns with maximizing information in the visual signal, that some words are more readily identified at atypical fixation locations, and that these effects vary to some degree across languages.

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