January 16, 2021

Lexical parafoveal previewing predicts reading speed

While reading is an essential human skill, many of the neuronal mechanisms supporting reading are not well understood. In spite of the reduced visual acuity, parafoveal information plays a critical role in natural reading; however, it is strongly debated whether words are previewed parafoveally at the lexical level. This is a key dispute for competing models on reading and of great significance since lexical retrieval is important for guiding eye movements. We found evidence for parafoveal previewing at the lexical level by combining a novel rapid invisible frequency tagging (RIFT)10,11 approach with magnetoencephalography (MEG) and eye-tracking. In a silent reading task, target words of either low or high lexical frequency were tagged (flickered) subliminally at 60 Hz. The tagging response measured when fixating on the pre-target word reflected parafoveal previewing of the target word. We observed a stronger tagging response as early as 100 ms following fixations on pre-target words that were followed by target words of low compared with high lexical frequency. Moreover, the difference in tagging response with respect to target lexicality predicted individual reading speed. Our findings demonstrate that reading unfolds in the fovea and parafovea simultaneously to support fluent reading.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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