Eye Movements and Information Processing During Reading
Ralph Radach, Alan Kennedy, and Keith Rayner, eds., Taylor & Francis, New York, 2004, $95.00.
In the late 19th century, Emilo Javal, a French ophthalmologist, discovered that when a person reads, his eyes do not move continuously along a line of text, but engage in a series of rapid movements (saccades) with intermittent short stops (fixations). Landolt (1891) provided the first evidence that the eyes do not proceed on a regular, predetermined path, but vary depending on the type of reading being done. Study of eye movements, therefore, provides a window to the cognitive processes of perception and comprehension that take place during reading. The chapters in this book consist of articles with informative research in the area of eye movement. They have been chosen because they are representative of the valid, reliable, high-quality work that exists and because each has contributed significantly to the body of knowledge about perceptual process in reading.
The book begins with a detailed introduction that highlights the importance of studying eye movements during reading. It highlights two fundamental aspects, namely visuomotor response and cognition, and the challenges involved because of the interaction between the two aspects. The tables provide definitions of the more commonly used terms in this area of research to familiarize the reader with the terminology and conventions. The section clearly identifies the eye movement models during reading and methodologic issues involved. A section on the principles and techniques used to study eye movements would have been a useful addition in this section.
The following chapters describe studies that investigated the basic aspects of eye movements during reading. A central question in eye movement research concerns the amount of information the eye can process with each fixation, i.e., perceptual span. Several questions surfaced to become obvious reasons for explorations into reading: Where does the eye stop? For how long? Why does it stop there? Why are some words not fixated? Various factors have been identified to influence the saccadic amplitude and fixation positions. The fixation positions can be affected by the preferred viewing position, word length, and the information from the parafoveal region. The effect of word familiarity and parafoveal information seems to influence where words are fixated. More information on the visuomotor factors controlling saccadic amplitudes have been presented but the issue is still being debated. The role of linguistic processing has also been discussed as a factor that could control saccadic amplitude. The book also reports that word skipping in reading is a function of word length, and both visual and linguistic factors independently affect word skipping.
The book very aptly provides a detailed section on the importance of information acquired in the parafoveal region and its effect on eye movements. Clear evidence of the influence of parafoveal information on foveal processing has been provided and has been extrapolated to processing of adjacent words.
The next section reverts back to eye movement control and factors that affect saccade initiation, amplitude, and attention process. This section could have followed the initial section on landing position effects.
The final section of the book describes the results on eye movement research that has been applied to serial versus parallel word recognition during reading. Overall, the subject index and the reference articles included in this book provide a comprehensive collection of information in reading research.
The research of the past and present needs to be critically analyzed to provide new research directions that could help us completely understand how the eyes work during reading. The studies reported in the book form an empiric base for research that continues to yield insight into vision and perception in the reading process. It provides the reader with a good look at the current models and challenges involved and will be a good reference to all who work in this dynamic area of research.
Manoj V. Subbaram
University of Rochester
Rochester, New York