Wider Letter-Spacing Facilitates Word Processing but Impairs Reading Rates of Fast Readers.
ABSTRACT: Previous reports of improved oral reading performance for dyslexic children but not for regular readers when between-letter spacing was enlarged led to the proposal of a dyslexia-specific deficit in visual crowding. However, it is in this context also critical to understand how letter spacing affects visual word recognition and reading in unimpaired readers. Adopting an individual differences approach, the present study, accordingly, examined whether wider letter spacing improves reading performance also for non-impaired adults during silent reading and whether there is an association between letter spacing and crowding sensitivity. We report eye movement data of 24 German students who silently read texts presented either with normal or wider letter spacing. Foveal and parafoveal crowding sensitivity were estimated using two independent tests. Wider spacing reduced first fixation durations, gaze durations, and total fixation time for all participants, with slower readers showing stronger effects. However, wider letter spacing also reduced skipping probabilities and elicited more fixations, especially for faster readers. In terms of words read per minute, wider letter spacing did not provide a benefit, and faster readers in particular were slowed down. Neither foveal nor parafoveal crowding sensitivity correlated with the observed letter-spacing effects. In conclusion, wide letter spacing reduces single word processing time in typically developed readers during silent reading, but affects reading rates negatively since more words must be fixated. We tentatively propose that wider letter spacing reinforces serial letter processing in slower readers, but disrupts parallel processing of letter chunks in faster readers. These effects of letter spacing do not seem to be mediated by individual differences in crowding sensitivity.
Project description:Theinability to recognize a peripheral target among flankers is called crowding. For a foveal target, crowding can be distinguished from overlap masking by its sparing of detection, linear scaling with eccentricity, and invariance with target size.Crowding depends on the proximity and similarity of the flankers to the target. Flankers that are far from or dissimilar to the target do not crowd it. On a gray page, text whose neighboring letters have different colors, alternately black and white, has enough dissimilarity that it might escape crowding. Since reading speed is normally limited by crowding, escape from crowding should allow faster reading. Yet reading speed is unchanged (Chung & Mansfield, 2009). Why? A recent vernier study found that using alternating-color flankers produces strong crowding (Manassi, Sayim, & Herzog, 2012). Might that effect occur with letters and reading? Critical spacing is the minimum center-to-center target-flanker spacing needed to correctly identify the target. We measure it for a target letter surrounded by several equidistant flanker letters of the same polarity, opposite polarity, or mixed polarity: alternately white and black. We find strong crowding in the alternating condition, even though each flanker letter is beyond its own critical spacing (as measured in a separate condition). Thus a periodic repeating pattern can produce crowding even when the individual elements do not. Further, in all conditions we find that, once a periodic pattern repeats (two cycles), further repetition does not affect critical spacing of the innermost flanker.
Project description:Participants' eye movements (EMs) and EEG signal were simultaneously recorded to examine foveal and parafoveal processing during sentence reading. All the words in the sentence were manipulated for inter-word spacing (intact spaces vs. spaces replaced by a random letter) and parafoveal preview (identical preview vs. random letter string preview). We observed disruption for unspaced text and invalid preview conditions in both EMs and fixation-related potentials (FRPs). Unspaced and invalid preview conditions received longer reading times than spaced and valid preview conditions. In addition, the FRP data showed that unspaced previews disrupted reading in earlier time windows of analysis, compared to string preview conditions. Moreover, the effect of parafoveal preview was greater for spaced relative to unspaced conditions, in both EMs and FRPs. These findings replicate well-established preview effects, provide novel insight into the neural correlates of reading with and without inter-word spacing and suggest that spatial selection precedes lexical processing.
Project description:Over the last years, several studies have suggested a possible link between dyslexia and deficits in low-level visual processing (e.g., excessive crowding). At the same time, specially designed "dyslexia-friendly" fonts appeared on the market. This class of fonts presents two main features: the particular graphic characteristics of the letterform designed to avoid confusion between similarly shaped letters, and wider inter-letter and inter-word spacing to limit crowding. The literature testing the efficacy of "dyslexia-friendly" fonts in improving reading accuracy and increasing reading speed is controversial. We evaluated the impact of letterform (with vs. without dyslexia-friendly graphic features), inter-letter spacing (standard vs. increased), and inter-word spacing (standard vs. increased) on reading accuracy and speed. Two groups of 64 children each, with and without dyslexia, read aloud 8 equivalent texts. The data collected failed to show any effect from the letterform. As regards spacing, the data showed that reading speed is impaired by an increase in inter-letter spacing not combined with an adequate increase in inter-word spacing.
Project description:In low-level perceptual tasks and reading tasks, deaf individuals show a redistribution of spatial visual attention toward the parafoveal and peripheral visual fields. In the present study, the experiment adopted the modified flanker paradigm and utilized a lexical decision task to investigate how these unique visual skills may influence foveal lexical access in deaf individuals. It was predicted that irrelevant linguistic stimuli presented in parafoveal vision, during a lexical decision task, would produce a larger interference effect for deaf college student readers if the stimuli acted as distractors during the task. The results showed there was a larger interference effect in deaf college student readers compared to the interference effect observed in participants with typical levels of hearing. Furthermore, deaf college student readers with low-skilled reading levels showed a larger interference effect than those with high-skilled reading levels. The current study demonstrates that the redistribution of spatial visual attention toward the parafoveal visual regions in deaf students impacts foveal lexical processing, and this effect is modulated by reading skill. The findings are discussed in relation to the potential effect that enhanced parafoveal attention may have on everyday reading for deaf individuals.
Project description:Reading speed is dramatically reduced when readers cannot use their central vision. This is because low visual acuity and crowding negatively impact letter recognition in the periphery. In this study, we designed a new font (referred to as the Eido font) in order to reduce inter-letter similarity and consequently to increase peripheral letter recognition performance. We tested this font by running five experiments that compared the Eido font with the standard Courier font. Letter spacing and x-height were identical for the two monospaced fonts. Six normally-sighted subjects used exclusively their peripheral vision to run two aloud reading tasks (with eye movements), a letter recognition task (without eye movements), a word recognition task (without eye movements) and a lexical decision task. Results show that reading speed was not significantly different between the Eido and the Courier font when subjects had to read single sentences with a round simulated gaze-contingent central scotoma (10° diameter). In contrast, Eido significantly decreased perceptual errors in peripheral crowded letter recognition (-30% errors on average for letters briefly presented at 6° eccentricity) and in peripheral word recognition (-32% errors on average for words briefly presented at 6° eccentricity).
Project description:Reading is a unique human ability that plays a pivotal role in the development and functioning of our modern society. However, its neural basis remains poorly understood since previous research was focused on reading words with fixed gaze. Here we developed a methodological framework for single-trial analysis of fixation onset-related EEG activity (FOREA) that enabled us to investigate visual information processing during natural reading. To reveal the effect of reading skills on orthographic processing during natural reading, we measured how altering the configural properties of the written text by modifying inter-letter spacing affects FOREA. We found that orthographic processing is reflected in FOREA in three consecutive time windows (120-175?ms, 230-265?ms, 345-380?ms after fixation onset) and the magnitude of FOREA effects in the two later time intervals showed a close association with the participants' reading speed: FOREA effects were larger in fast than in slow readers. Furthermore, these expertise-driven configural effects were clearly dissociable from the FOREA signatures of visual perceptual processes engaged to handle the increased crowding (155-220?ms) as a result of decreasing letter spacing. Our findings revealed that with increased reading skills orthographic processing becomes more sensitive to the configural properties of the written text.
Project description:Although the causes of dyslexia are still debated, all researchers agree that the main challenge is to find ways that allow a child with dyslexia to read more words in less time, because reading more is undisputedly the most efficient intervention for dyslexia. Sophisticated training programs exist, but they typically target the component skills of reading, such as phonological awareness. After the component skills have improved, the main challenge remains (that is, reading deficits must be treated by reading more--a vicious circle for a dyslexic child). Here, we show that a simple manipulation of letter spacing substantially improved text reading performance on the fly (without any training) in a large, unselected sample of Italian and French dyslexic children. Extra-large letter spacing helps reading, because dyslexics are abnormally affected by crowding, a perceptual phenomenon with detrimental effects on letter recognition that is modulated by the spacing between letters. Extra-large letter spacing may help to break the vicious circle by rendering the reading material more easily accessible.
Project description:Reading deficits are a common early feature of the degenerative syndrome posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) but are poorly understood even at the single word level. The current study evaluated the reading accuracy and speed of 26 PCA patients, 17 typical Alzheimer's disease (tAD) patients and 14 healthy controls on a corpus of 192 single words in which the following perceptual properties were manipulated systematically: inter-letter spacing, font size, length, font type, case and confusability. PCA reading was significantly less accurate and slower than tAD patients and controls, with performance significantly adversely affected by increased letter spacing, size, length and font (cursive < non-cursive), and characterised by visual errors (69% of all error responses). By contrast, tAD and control accuracy rates were at or near ceiling, letter spacing was the only perceptual factor to influence reading speed in the same direction as controls, and, in contrast to PCA patients, control reading was faster for larger font sizes. The inverse size effect in PCA (less accurate reading of large than small font size print) was associated with lower grey matter volume in the right superior parietal lobule. Reading accuracy was associated with impairments of early visual (especially crowding), visuoperceptual and visuospatial processes. However, these deficits were not causally related to a universal impairment of reading as some patients showed preserved reading for small, unspaced words despite grave visual deficits. Rather, the impact of specific types of visual dysfunction on reading was found to be (con)text specific, being particularly evident for large, spaced, lengthy words. These findings improve the characterisation of dyslexia in PCA, shed light on the causative and associative factors, and provide clear direction for the development of reading aids and strategies to maximise and sustain reading ability in the early stages of disease.
Project description:It is now emerging that vision is usually limited by object spacing rather than size. The visual system recognizes an object by detecting and then combining its features. 'Crowding' occurs when objects are too close together and features from several objects are combined into a jumbled percept. Here, we review the explosion of studies on crowding--in grating discrimination, letter and face recognition, visual search, selective attention, and reading--and find a universal principle, the Bouma law. The critical spacing required to prevent crowding is equal for all objects, although the effect is weaker between dissimilar objects. Furthermore, critical spacing at the cortex is independent of object position, and critical spacing at the visual field is proportional to object distance from fixation. The region where object spacing exceeds critical spacing is the 'uncrowded window'. Observers cannot recognize objects outside of this window and its size limits the speed of reading and search.
Project description:PURPOSE:Acuity measurement is a fundamental method to assess visual performance in the clinic. Little is known about how acuity measured in the presence of neighboring letters, as in the case of letter charts, changes with contrast and with nonfoveal viewing. This information is crucial for acuity measurement using low-contrast charts and when patients cannot use their fovea. In this study, we evaluated how optotype acuity, with and without flankers, is affected by contrast and eccentricity. METHODS:Five young adults with normal vision identified the orientation of a Tumbling-E presented alone or in the presence of four flanking Tumbling-Es. Edge-to-edge letter spacing ranged from 1 to 20 bar widths. Stimuli were presented on a white background for 150 ms with Weber contrast ranging from -2.5% to -99%. Flankers had the same size and contrast as the target. Testings were performed at the fovea, 3°, 5°, and 10° in the inferior visual field. RESULTS:When plotted as a function of letter spacing, acuity remains unaffected by the presence of flankers until the flankers are within the critical spacing, which averages an edge-to-edge spacing of 4.4 bar widths at the fovea and approximately 16 bar widths at all three eccentricities. Critical spacing decreases with a reduction in contrast. When plotted as a function of contrast, acuity only worsens when the contrast falls below approximately 24% at the fovea and 17% in the periphery, for flanked and unflanked conditions alike. CONCLUSIONS:The letter spacing on conventional letter charts exceeds the critical spacing for acuity measurement at the fovea, at all contrast levels. Thus, these charts are appropriate for assessing foveal acuity. In the periphery, the critical spacing is larger than the letter spacing on conventional charts. Consequently, these charts may underestimate the acuity measured in the periphery because of the effects of crowding.