Printed words are complex visual stimuli containing a range of different spatial frequencies, and several studies have suggested that various spatial frequencies are effective for skilled adult reading. But while it is well known that the area of text from which information is acquired during reading extends to the left and right of each fixation, the effectiveness of spatial frequencies falling each side of fixation has yet to be determined. To investigate this issue, we used a spatial frequency adaptation of the gaze-contingent moving-window paradigm in which sentences were shown to skilled adult readers either entirely as normal or filtered to contain only low, medium, or high spatial frequencies except for a window of normal text around each point of fixation. Windows replaced filtered text either symmetrically 1 character to the left and right of each fixated character, or asymmetrically, 1 character to the left and 7 or 13 to the right, or 1 character to the right and 7 or 13 to the left. Reading times and eye-movement measures showed that reading performance for sentences presented entirely as normal generally changed very little with filtered displays when windows extended to the right but was often disrupted when windows extended to the left. However, asymmetrical windows affected performance on both sides of fixation. Indeed, increasing the leftward extent of windows from 7 to 13 characters produced decreases in both reading times and fixation durations, suggesting that reading was influenced by the spatial frequency content of leftward areas of text some considerable distance from fixation. Overall, the findings show that while a range of different spatial frequencies can be used by skilled adult readers, the effectiveness of spatial frequencies differs for text on each side of central vision, and may reflect different roles played by these two areas of text during reading.
- Eye movements
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