, Volume 75, Issue 6, pp 1275-1292
Date: 25 May 2013

Effects of intraword and interword spacing on eye movements during reading: Exploring the optimal use of space in a line of text

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Abstract

Two eye movement experiments investigated intraword spacing (the space between letters within words) and interword spacing (the space between words) to explore the influence these variables have on eye movement control during reading. Both variables are important factors in determining the optimal use of space in a line of text, and fonts differ widely in how they employ these spaces. Prior research suggests that the proximity of flanking letters influences the identification of a central letter via lateral inhibition or crowding. If so, decrements in intraword spacing may produce inhibition in word processing. Still other research suggests that increases in intraword spacing can disrupt the integrity of word units. In English, interword spacing has a large influence on word segmentation and is important for saccade target selection. The results indicate an interplay between intra- and interword spacing that influences a font’s readability. Additionally, these studies highlight the importance of word segmentation processes and have implications for the nature of lexical processing (serial vs. parallel).