The Effect of Dyslexia on Searching Visual and Textual Content: Are Icons Really Useful?

  • Gerd BergetEmail author
  • Frode Eika Sandnes
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9177)


Little is known about how dyslexia affects online information seeking. This study addresses the search performance of 21 users with dyslexia and 21 controls in textual versus visual displays. The aim was to investigate whether visual content enhance search performance. Participants were presented with 24 icons and 24 words and asked to locate a target item. Eye-tracking data revealed no differences in performance in visual or textual content in the dyslexia group. There were no significant differences between the user groups on visual tasks. However, users with dyslexia performed significantly slower on textual tasks than controls, mainly due to longer fixation durations. Users in the control group took much less time solving textual tasks than visual tasks. The results indicate that there may be no advantages in replacing textual content with icons for users with dyslexia. However, replacing text with icons may be counterproductive for users without dyslexia.


Dyslexia Information search Icons Eye-tracking 



This project has been financially supported by the Norwegian ExtraFoundation for Health and Rehabilitation through EXTRA funds grant 2011/12/0258. The authors are grateful to the participants for their helpful cooperation and to Dyslexia Norway for assisting with recruiting students.


  1. 1.
    Shaywitz, S.E., Shaywitz, B.A.: Dyslexia (specific reading disability). Biol. Psychiatry 57(11), 1301–1309 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Snowling, M.J.: Dyslexia. Blackwell, Malden (2000)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Jeffries, S., Everatt, J.: Working memory: its role in dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. Dyslexia 10(3), 196–214 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Hiscox, L., Leonavičiūte, E., Humby, T.: The effects of automatic spelling correction software on understanding and comprehension in compensated dyslexia: improved recall following dictation. Dyslexia 20(3), 208–224 (2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Snowling, M.J.: From language to reading and dyslexia. Dyslexia 7(1), 37–46 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Mortimore, T., Crozier, W.R.: Dyslexia and difficulties with study skills in higher education. Stud. High. Educ. 31(2), 235–251 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Smith-Spark, J.H., Fisk, J.E.: Working memory functioning in developmental dyslexia. Memory 15(1), 34–56 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Macfarlane, A., Al-Wabil, A., Marshall, C.R., Albrair, A., Jones, S.A., Zaphiris, P.: The effect of dyslexia on information retrieval: a pilot study. J. Documentation 66(3), 307–326 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Prado, C., Dubois, M., Valdois, S.: The eye movements of dyslexic children during reading and visual search: impact of the visual attention span. Vision. Res. 47(19), 2521–2530 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Sireteanu, R., Goebel, C., Goertz, R., Werner, I., Nalewajko, M., Thiel, A.: Impaired visual search in children with developmental dyslexia. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1145, 199–211 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Boer-Schellekens, L.D., Vroomen, J.: Sound can improve visual search in developmental dyslexia. Exp. Brain Res. 216(2), 243–248 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Huang, X., Jing, J., Zou, X.-B., Wang, M.-L., Lin, A.-H.: Eye movements characteristic of Chinese dyslexic children in picture searching. Chin. Med. J. 121(17), 1617–1621 (2008)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Jones, M.W., Branigan, H.P., Kelly, M.L.: Visual deficits in developmental dyslexia: Relationships between non-linguistic visual tasks and their contribution to components in reading. Dyslexia 14(2), 95–115 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Vidyasagar, T.R., Pammer, K.: Impaired visual search in dyslexia relates to the role of the magnocellular pathway in attention. NeuroReport 10(6), 1283–1287 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Iles, J., Walsh, V., Richardson, A.: Visual search performance in dyslexia. Dyslexia 6(3), 163–177 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Germanò, E., Gagliano, A., Curatolo, P.: Comorbidity of ADHD and dyslexia. Dev. Neuropsychol. 35(5), 475–493 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Høien, T., Tønnesen, G.: Ordkjedetesten [The Word Chain Test]. Logometrica, Bryne (2008)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    International Organization for Standardization: ISO 8596 Ophthalmic optics: Visual acuity testing – standard optotype and its presentation. International Organization for Standardization, Geneva (2009)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Zhang, P., Bobier, W., Thompson, B., Hess, R.F.: Binocular balance in normal vision and its modulation by mean luminance. Optom. Vis. Sci. 88(9), 1072–1079 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Greene, H.H., Rayner, K.: Eye movements and familiarity effects in visual search. Vision. Res. 41(27), 3763–3773 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Klöckner, K., Wirschum, N., Jameson, A.: Depth and breadth: first processing of search result lists. In: CHI 2004 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing, pp. 1539–1539. ACM (2004)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Cutrell, E., Guan, Z.: What are you looking for: an eye-tracking study of information usage in web search. In: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 407–416 (2007)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Technology, Art and Design, Institute of Information TechnologyOslo and Akershus University, College of Applied SciencesOsloNorway
  2. 2.Faculty of TechnologyWesterdals Oslo School of Arts, Communication and TechnologyOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations