Effects of Word Length on Eye Movement Control: The Evidence from Arabic
journal contributionposted on 04.03.2015, 15:22 by Kevin B. Paterson, A. A. Almabruk Abubaker, Victoria A. McGowan, Sarah J. White, T. R. Jordan
The finding that word length plays a fundamental role in determining where and for how long readers fixate within a line of text has been central to the development of sophisticated models of eye movement control. However, research in this area is dominated by the use of Latinate languages (e.g., English, French, German) and little is known about eye movement control for alphabetic languages with very different visual characteristics. To address this issue, the present experiment undertook a novel investigation of the influence of word length on eye movement behavior when reading Arabic. Arabic is an alphabetic language that not only is read from right-to-left but has visual characteristics fundamentally different from Latinate languages, and so is ideally-suited to testing the generality of mechanisms of eye movement control. The findings reveal that readers were more likely to fixate and refixate longer words, and also that longer words tended to be fixated for longer. In addition, word length influenced the landing positions of initial fixations on words, with the effect that readers fixated the center of short words and fixated closer to the beginning letters for longer words, and the location of landing positions affected both the duration of the first fixation and probability of refixating the word. The indication now, therefore, is that effects of word length are a widespread and fundamental component of reading and play a central role in guiding eye-movement behavior across a range of very different alphabetic systems.