The influence of word frequency on word reading speed when individuals with macular diseases read text


  • Stolowy Natacha
  • Calabrese Aurelie
  • Sauvan Lauren
  • Aguilar Carlos
  • François Thomas
  • Gala Núria
  • Matonti Frédéric
  • Castet Eric


  • Macular degeneration
  • Reading
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Word frequency
  • Lexical simplification
  • Central field loss

document type



People with central field loss (CFL) use peripheral vision to identify words. Eccentric vision provides ambiguous visual inputs to the processes leading to lexical access. Our purpose was to explore the hypothesis that this ambiguity leads to strong influences of inferential processes, our prediction being that increasing word frequency would decrease word reading time. Individuals with bilateral CFL induced by macular diseases read French sentences displayed with a self-paced reading method. Reading time of the last word of each sentence (target word) was recorded. Each target word (in sentence n) was matched with a synonym word (in sentence n+1) of the same length. When using absolute frequency value (Analysis 1), we found that reading time of target words decreased when word frequency increases, even when controlling for word length. The amplitude of this effect is larger than reported in previous investigations of reading with normal subjects. When comparing the effect of relative frequency (low vs. high) within each pair of synonyms (Analysis 2), results show the same pattern as the one observed in Analysis 1. Our results demonstrate clear-cut frequency effects on word reading time and suggest that inferential processes are stronger in CFL readers than in normally sighted observers. These results might also help design text simplification tools tailored for low-vision patients.

more information