On the optimal viewing position for object processing


  • Linden Lotje
  • Vitu Françoise

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Numerous studies have shown that a visually presented word is processed most easily when participants initially fixate just to the left of the word's center. Fixating on this optimal viewing position (OVP) results in shorter response times and a lower probability of making additional within-word refixations (OVP effects), but also longer initial-fixation durations (an inverted-OVP or I-OVP effect), as compared to initially fixating at the beginning or the end of the word. Thus, typical curves are u-shaped (or inverted-u-shaped), with a leftward bias. Most researchers explain the u-shape in terms of visual constraints, and the leftward bias in terms of language constraints. Previous studies have demonstrated that (I)-OVP effects are not specific to words, but generalize to object viewing. We further investigated this by comparing the strength and (a)symmetry of (I-)OVP effects for words and objects. To this purpose, we gave participants an object- versus word-naming task in which we manipulated the position at which they initially fixated the stimulus (i.e., a line drawing or the written name of an object). Our results showed that object viewing, just as word viewing, resulted in u-shaped (I-)OVP curves. However, the effect was weaker than for words. Furthermore, for words, the curves were biased to the left, whereas they were symmetrical for objects. This might indicate that part of the (I-)OVP effect for words is language specific, and that (I-)OVP effects for objects are a purer measure of the effect of visual constraints.

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