Relationship Between Visual Attention and Saccade Target Selection in Reading
While reading, periods of fixations are interrupted by fast movements of the eyes, the saccades. These saccadic eye movements provide a rapid means of bringing the fovea on the « interesting objects » present in the text line. There has been considerable interest in the processes associated with how readers select where to look next, and there is evidence suggesting that readers select the word-object to the right as subsequent eye movement target. The length of a yet-to-be fixated word strongly influences where a reader fixates in that word (Rayner, 1979). Moreover, where to move the eyes does not depend exclusively on word boundary information. Research made in the laboratory showed that letter groupings that are unusual for a reader of a given language provide a salient signal that «attracts» the next saccade (Beauvillain, Doré, and Baudouin, 1996; Doré and Beau-villain, 1997; Beauvillain and Doré, 1998). Therefore, a selection process that delivers coordinates of the next movement should be influenced by information acquired from the word to which the eyes are directed prior to the eye movement. It has been suggested that this process is carried out through a spatial attention mechanism (Henderson, 1992). According to this hypothesis, a common attentional mechanism selects objects for recognition as well as provides the future saccade target location. More recently, other researchers have proposed the notion of an obligatory and selective coupling of saccade programming and visual attention (Deubel and Schneider, 1996; Hoffman and Subramaniam, 1995).
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