Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New technology enables scientists to understand exactly what our eyes get up to while we read

10.09.2007
Being able to read competently is one of the most important skills we need to function in today’s fast-paced society. Analysing the way we read can offer valuable insights into how we process visual information. Scientists have been interested in the movements of our eyes while reading for forty years. However, until now most assumed that when we read both eyes look at the same letter of a word concurrently.

Now ground-breaking research by cognitive psychologist, Professor Simon Liversedge and his team at the University of Southampton has shown that this is not actually the case. They found that our eyes are actually up to something much more exciting when we read - our eyes look at different letters in the same word and then combine the different images through a process known as fusion.

The research Prof. Liversedge will present at the BA Festival of Science in York shows that the reading process is not as simple as one might think; it is rarely a case of the eyes scanning the page smoothly from left to right. Depending on what we are reading and how hard we are finding the information to digest our eyes make small jerky movements, that allow us to focus on a particularly difficult word or often re-read passages we didn’t get the first time. Analysing these eye movements enables psychologists to understand how our brain processes the sentence.

With sophisticated eye tracking equipment able to determine which letter of a font-size 14 word a person is looking at every millisecond from 1 metre away, Prof. Liversedge’s team went one further and looked at the letters within the word within the sentence. They were able to deduce that when our eyes are not looking at the same letter of the word, they are usually about two letters apart. Prof. Liversedge explains: ‘Although this difference might sound small, in fact it represents a very substantial difference in terms of the precise "picture" of the world that each eye delivers to the brain’.

So if our eyes are looking at different parts of the same word, thereby receiving different information from each eye, how is it that we are able to see the words clearly enough to read them? There are two ways the brain can do this; either the image from one of the eyes is blocked or the two different images are somehow fused together. To test how the latter mechanism might work, the team chose words that could easily split in two, such as cowboy, and presented half of the word to the left eye, and half to the right eye separately. They then analysed readers’ eye movements when reading sentences containing these particular words presented in this way.

‘We were able to clearly show that we experience a single, very clear and crisp visual representation due to fusion of the two different images from each eye,’ he explained. ‘Also when we decide which word to look at next we work out how far to move our eyes based on the fused visual representation built from the disparate signals of each eye.’

‘A comprehensive understanding of the psychological processes underlying reading is vital if we are to develop better methods of teaching children to read and offer remedial treatments for those with reading disorders such as dyslexia. Our team are now measuring the range of visual disparities over which both adult and child readers can successfully fuse words.’

Professor Simon Liversedge will give his talk, ‘What our eyes get up to while we read’ as part of the session entitled ‘What eye movements tell us about the brain and language’ on 14 September at Vanbrugh V/045, University of York as part of the BA Festival of Science.

The BA Festival of Science will be in York from 9-15 September, bringing over 350 of the UK’s top scientists and engineers to discuss the latest developments in science with the public. In addition to talks and debates at the University of York, there will be a host of events throughout the city.

For further information about the BA Festival of Science, including an online programme, visit www.the-ba.net/festivalofscience.

This year’s BA Festival of Science is organised by the BA (British Association for the Advancement of Science) in partnership with the University of York, Science City York and the City of York Council. It is supported by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, BP and Yorkshire Forward.

Lisa Hendry | alfa
Further information:
http://www.the-ba.net

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Collagen nanofibrils in mammalian tissues get stronger with exercise
14.12.2018 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht New discoveries predict ability to forecast dementia from single molecule
12.12.2018 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

The more objects we make "smart," from watches to entire buildings, the greater the need for these devices to store and retrieve massive amounts of data quickly without consuming too much power.

Millions of new memory cells could be part of a computer chip and provide that speed and energy savings, thanks to the discovery of a previously unobserved...

Im Focus: An energy-efficient way to stay warm: Sew high-tech heating patches to your clothes

Personal patches could reduce energy waste in buildings, Rutgers-led study says

What if, instead of turning up the thermostat, you could warm up with high-tech, flexible patches sewn into your clothes - while significantly reducing your...

Im Focus: Lethal combination: Drug cocktail turns off the juice to cancer cells

A widely used diabetes medication combined with an antihypertensive drug specifically inhibits tumor growth – this was discovered by researchers from the University of Basel’s Biozentrum two years ago. In a follow-up study, recently published in “Cell Reports”, the scientists report that this drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off their energy supply.

The widely used anti-diabetes drug metformin not only reduces blood sugar but also has an anti-cancer effect. However, the metformin dose commonly used in the...

Im Focus: New Foldable Drone Flies through Narrow Holes in Rescue Missions

A research team from the University of Zurich has developed a new drone that can retract its propeller arms in flight and make itself small to fit through narrow gaps and holes. This is particularly useful when searching for victims of natural disasters.

Inspecting a damaged building after an earthquake or during a fire is exactly the kind of job that human rescuers would like drones to do for them. A flying...

Im Focus: Topological material switched off and on for the first time

Key advance for future topological transistors

Over the last decade, there has been much excitement about the discovery, recognised by the Nobel Prize in Physics only two years ago, that there are two types...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

New Plastics Economy Investor Forum - Meeting Point for Innovations

10.12.2018 | Event News

EGU 2019 meeting: Media registration now open

06.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Data use draining your battery? Tiny device to speed up memory while also saving power

14.12.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

In search of missing worlds, Hubble finds a fast evaporating exoplanet

14.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>