Ongoing Cognitive Processing Influences Precise Eye-Movement Targets in Reading

  • Klinton Bicknell (AI Research Group, Duolingo) (Contributor)
  • Roger Levy (Creator)
  • Keith Rayner (Creator)



Reading is a highly complex learned skill in which humans move their eyes three to four times every second in response to visual and cognitive processing. The consensus view is that the details of these rapid eye-movement decisions—which part of a word to target with a saccade—are determined solely by low-level oculomotor heuristics. But maximally efficient saccade targeting would be sensitive to ongoing word identification, sending the eyes farther into a word the farther its identification has already progressed. Here, using a covert text-shifting paradigm, we showed just such a statistical relationship between saccade targeting in reading and trial-to-trial variability in cognitive processing. This result suggests that, rather than relying purely on heuristics, the human brain has learned to optimize eye movements in reading even at the fine-grained level of character-position targeting, reflecting efficiency-based sensitivity to ongoing cognitive processing.
Date made available2020
PublisherSAGE Journals

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