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Eyes lock on different letters when reading September 9, 2007

Posted by tkcollier in In The News, Lifestyle, Science & Technology.
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Eyes lock on different letters when reading | Science | Reuters
When we read our eyes lock on to different letters in the same word instead of scanning a page smoothly from left to right as previously thought, researchers said on Monday.

Using sophisticated eye tracking equipment, the team looked at letters within a word and found that people combined parts of a word that were on average two letters apart, said Simon Liversedge, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Southampton.

Over the past 40 years scientists have studied eye movements and reading, with a general consensus that people look at the same letter within a word with both eyes, Liversedge said.

To test this, Liversedge and colleagues measured the reflections of a low-intensity infrared beam shone into a volunteer’s eye when reading. This allowed the researchers to pinpoint exactly where the eye had fixated on a word.

Then they ran further tests to see why people did not have double vision from picking out individual letters and found that the brain fuses the two signals that come in from the different eyes into one clear image, Liversedge said.

“It had always been assumed that both eyes moved in perfect harmony and you looked at a word with just one fixation,” he said. “Because of this assumption scientists looking at reading behavior have just measured one of the eyes because they assumed the eyes were doing the same thing.”

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