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Increased Word Spacing Improves Performance for Reading Scrolling Text with Central Vision Loss

Harvey, Hannah PhD1*; Anderson, Stephen J. PhD2; Walker, Robin PhD1

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000001411

SIGNIFICANCE Scrolling text can be an effective reading aid for those with central vision loss. Our results suggest that increased interword spacing with scrolling text may further improve the reading experience of this population. This conclusion may be of particular interest to low-vision aid developers and visual rehabilitation practitioners.

PURPOSE The dynamic, horizontally scrolling text format has been shown to improve reading performance in individuals with central visual loss. Here, we sought to determine whether reading performance with scrolling text can be further improved by modulating interword spacing to reduce the effects of visual crowding, a factor known to impact negatively on reading with peripheral vision.

METHODS The effects of interword spacing on reading performance (accuracy, memory recall, and speed) were assessed for eccentrically viewed single sentences of scrolling text. Separate experiments were used to determine whether performance measures were affected by any confound between interword spacing and text presentation rate in words per minute. Normally sighted participants were included, with a central vision loss implemented using a gaze-contingent scotoma of 8° diameter. In both experiments, participants read sentences that were presented with an interword spacing of one, two, or three characters.

RESULTS Reading accuracy and memory recall were significantly enhanced with triple-character interword spacing (both measures, P ≤ .01). These basic findings were independent of the text presentation rate (in words per minute).

CONCLUSIONS We attribute the improvements in reading performance with increased interword spacing to a reduction in the deleterious effects of visual crowding. We conclude that increased interword spacing may enhance reading experience and ability when using horizontally scrolling text with a central vision loss.

1Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, Egham Hill, Egham, United Kingdom

2School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, United Kingdom


Submitted: September 7, 2018

Accepted: May 21, 2019

Funding/Support: Royal Holloway University of London (PhD studentship; to HH).

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: None of the authors have reported a financial conflict of interest.

Author Contributions: Conceptualization: HH, SJA, RW; Formal Analysis: HH, SJA, RW; Investigation: HH, RW; Methodology: HH, SJA, RW; Supervision: RW; Writing – Original Draft: HH; Writing – Review & Editing: SJA, RW.

Online date: July 17, 2019

© 2019 American Academy of Optometry