Psychological Research

, Volume 80, Issue 5, pp 729–743 | Cite as

Reading during the composition of multi-sentence texts: an eye-movement study

  • Mark Torrance
  • Roger Johansson
  • Victoria Johansson
  • Åsa Wengelin
Original Article


Writers composing multi-sentence texts have immediate access to a visual representation of what they have written. Little is known about the detail of writers’ eye movements within this text during production. We describe two experiments in which competent adult writers’ eye movements were tracked while performing short expository writing tasks. These are contrasted with conditions in which participants read and evaluated researcher-provided texts. Writers spent a mean of around 13 % of their time looking back into their text. Initiation of these look-back sequences was strongly predicted by linguistically important boundaries in their ongoing production (e.g., writers were much more likely to look back immediately prior to starting a new sentence). 36 % of look-back sequences were associated with sustained reading and the remainder with less patterned forward and backward saccades between words (“hopping”). Fixation and gaze durations and the presence of word-length effects suggested lexical processing of fixated words in both reading and hopping sequences. Word frequency effects were not present when writers read their own text. Findings demonstrate the technical possibility and potential value of examining writers’ fixations within their just-written text. We suggest that these fixations do not serve solely, or even primarily, in monitoring for error, but play an important role in planning ongoing production.


Fixation Duration Reading Sequence Saccadic Amplitude Expository Text Lexical Retrieval 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The research reported in the first part of this paper was funded by the Swedish Research Council (grant no. 2009–2004) and supported by the Linnaeus Center for Thinking in Time: Cognition, Communication and Learning (CCL) at Lund University, which is funded by the Swedish Research Council (grant no. 349-2007-8695). We would like to thank Sol Simpson, Johan Dahl, Henrik Karlsson, and Sven Strömqvist for programming and other support. Preparation of this paper was supported by a grant to the first author from the Norwegian Reading Centre, University of Stavanger.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mark Torrance
    • 1
  • Roger Johansson
    • 2
  • Victoria Johansson
    • 3
  • Åsa Wengelin
    • 4
  1. 1.Psychology DivisionNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyLund UniversityLundSweden
  3. 3.Centre for Languages and LiteratureLund UniversityLundSweden
  4. 4.Department of SwedishUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden

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