Effects of inter-character spacing on saccade programming in beginning readers and dyslexics.


  • Bellocchi Stéphanie
  • Massendari Delphine
  • Grainger Jonathan
  • Ducrot Stéphanie

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The present study investigated the impact of inter-character spacing on saccade programming in beginning readers and dyslexic children. In two experiments, eye movements were recorded while dyslexic children, reading-age, and chronological-age controls, performed an oculomotor lateralized bisection task on words and strings of hashes presented either with default inter-character spacing or with extra spacing between the characters. The results of Experiment 1 showed that (1) only proficient readers had already developed highly automatized procedures for programming both left- and rightward saccades, depending on the discreteness of the stimuli and (2) children of all groups were disrupted (i.e., had trouble to land close to the beginning of the stimuli) by extra spacing between the characters of the stimuli, and particularly for stimuli presented in the left visual field. Experiment 2 was designed to disentangle the role of inter-character spacing and spatial width. Stimuli were made the same physical length in the default and extra-spacing conditions by having more characters in the default spacing condition. Our results showed that inter-letter spacing still influenced saccade programming when controlling for spatial width, thus confirming the detrimental effect of extra spacing for saccade programming. We conclude that the beneficial effect of increased inter-letter spacing on reading can be better explained in terms of decreased visual crowding than improved saccade targeting.

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