Memory & Cognition

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 502–512

Effects of increased letter spacing on word identification and eye guidance during reading


DOI: 10.3758/MC.38.4.502

Cite this article as:
Paterson, K.B. & Jordan, T.R. Memory & Cognition (2010) 38: 502. doi:10.3758/MC.38.4.502


The effect of increasing the space between the letters in words on eye movements during reading was investigated under various word-spacing conditions. Participants read sentences that included a high- or low-frequency target word, letters were displayed normally or with an additional space between adjacent letters, and one, two, or three spaces were present between each word. The spacing manipulations were found to modulate the effect of word frequency on the number and duration of fixations on target words, indicating, more specifically, that letter spacing affected actual word identification under various word-spacing conditions. In addition, whereas initial fixations landed at the preferred viewing position (i.e., to the left of a word’s center) for sentences presented normally, landing positions were nearer the beginnings of words when letter spacing was increased, and even nearer the beginnings of words when word boundary information was lacking. Findings are discussed in terms of the influence of textual spacing on eye movement control.

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© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and PsychologyUniversity of LeicesterLeicesterEngland