Letter visibility and the viewing position effect in visual word recognition


  • Stevens M
  • Grainger J

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The ease with which printed words are recognized depends on the position at which the eyes initially fixate the word. In this study, we examined to what extent recognition performance for each fixation position depends on the average visibility of the word's constituent letters. Experiment I measured recognition performance to single letters embedded in strings-of Xs (lengths of 5 and 7) for all combinations of letter position and initial fixation position in the string. In Experiment 2, recognition performance was measured for five-letter and seven-letter words as a function of initial fixation position in the word. Whereas average letter visibility showed a symmetric function in Experiment 1, the word recognition data of Experiment 2 showed the typical asymmetric curve. Combining the letter visibility data with measures of lexical constraint using absolute letter-in-string positions failed to capture the pattern in the word data. An alternative measure of constraint based on relative position coding of letters generated more accurate predictions.

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