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Eye Movements and Reading

Within the School of Psychology and Computer Science at the University of Central Lancashire, there is a team of researchers carrying out experimental work to investigate reading and human visual cognition.  Much of this research has been conducted using eye tracking technology within the Perception, Cognition and Neuroscience Laboratories in the Darwin Building.  This research seeks to understand the nature of visual and cognitive processes that underlie natural reading.  When we read we make a series of eye movements, saccadic eye movements, in order to successively process the words of each sentence in the text on the page. 


When we read, our eyes pause briefly as we look at (fixate) a word before very quickly rotating so that our point of fixation jumps to the next word or so in the sentence.  The pauses, or fixations, last about a quarter of a second, and the jumps or saccades, last only tens of milliseconds.  For many years now, experimental psychologists have known that there is a tight relationship between patterns of eye movements and the cognitive processes that readers engage in as they process text.  In our work we try to understand the factors influencing where and for how long readers spend fixating the words they read.  

For illustrational purposes, here we generate a sequence of eye movements from a participant reading a sentence. Blue circles represent each of the fixations in sequence (numbered in red), with larger circles for longer fixations (with the duration of each fixation in milliseconds marked in blue)


Issues under investigation concern the relationship between foveal and parafoveal processing, processes underlying word identification, syntactic processing and semantic/discourse processing.  We investigate issues of serialism and parallelism in relation to formal computational models of eye guidance during reading.  We also examine the influence of contextual information (sentential context, discourse context) on eye movement behaviour (particularly word skipping and regressions), and cross-linguistic variation in eye movement control in reading.  We have also examined how readers coordinate the movements of both eyes as they read.

If you are interested in these topics, please take a look at some of the references below.

  • Liversedge, S. P., Castelhano, M., Reichle, E. D., & Ferreira, F. (2018). Special Issue in honour of Keith Rayner (1943–2015). Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

  • Liversedge, S.P. & Findlay, J.M., (2000). Eye movements reflect cognitive processes. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 4, 6-14.

  • Liversedge, S.P., Gilchrist, I.D. & Everling, S., (2011). (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Eye Movements, New York, NY: Oxford University Press. 

  • Liversedge, S.P. & Walker, R., (2008). (Eds.) Special Issue of the Journal of Eye Movement Research in Honour of John M. Findlay.

  • Klein, R.M., & Liversedge, S.P. (2019). Eye movements and visual cogntion, Special Issue of Vision.

  • Pollatsek A., & Treiman, R. (2015). (Eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Reading. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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