, Volume 74, Issue 8, pp 1556-1561

Fixation positions after skipping saccades: A single space makes a large difference

Abstract

During reading, saccadic eye movements are generated to shift words into the center of the visual field for lexical processing. Recently, Krügel and Engbert (Vision Research 50:1532–1539, 2010) demonstrated that within-word fixation positions are largely shifted to the left after skipped words. However, explanations of the origin of this effect cannot be drawn from normal reading data alone. Here we show that the large effect of skipped words on the distribution of within-word fixation positions is primarily based on rather subtle differences in the low-level visual information acquired before saccades. Using arrangements of “x” letter strings, we reproduced the effect of skipped character strings in a highly controlled single-saccade task. Our results demonstrate that the effect of skipped words in reading is the signature of a general visuomotor phenomenon. Moreover, our findings extend beyond the scope of the widely accepted range-error model, which posits that within-word fixation positions in reading depend solely on the distances of target words. We expect that our results will provide critical boundary conditions for the development of visuomotor models of saccade planning during reading.