The effects of interword spacing on the eye movements of young and older readers

Recent evidence indicates that older adults (aged 65+) are more disrupted by removing interword spaces than young adults (aged 18-30). However, it is not known whether older readers also show greater sensitivity to the more subtle changes to this spacing that frequently occur during normal reading. In the present study the eye movements of young and older adults were examined when reading texts for which interword spacing was normal, condensed to half its normal size or expanded to 1.5 times its normal size. Although these changes in interword spacing affected eye movement behaviour, this influence did not differ between young and older adults. Furthermore, a word frequency manipulation showed that these changes did not affect word identification for either group. The results indicate that older adults can adapt their eye moment behaviour to accommodate subtle changes in the spatial layout of text equally effectively as young adults.