Eye Movement Literature Novels English Language Essay

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In a reading task, few undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh participated in Richele, Reineberg, Schoolers eye movement study of mindless reading using Jane Austen's Sense and Sensiblity novel to experiment whether the fixation duration lasts longer or shorter. Results revealed that the fixation duration were longer during mindless reading (Reichle et al., 2010). Researchers also found that before self-caught mind wandering, eye movements were unpredictable and rapid (Reicle et al., 2010). They found that when participants were paying close attention to what they were reading, their eye movements were more likely to be sensitive to variables such as word length, and other lexical input knowledge (Reicle et al., 2010). However, the researchers did not conduct the inquiry about the ways writing styles - form (structure and style of text) have an effect in reading experience overall and how writing styles affect number of fixations and reading speed. (There are writing styles that are unconventional e.g., Blindness by José Saramago, a classic example of a novel with unusual narrative structure and grammatical construction). There is no current research paper or book that explores this issue but instead researchers tend to concentrate on font type and size, influencing on visual search and information retrieval.

The lack of research exploring on an eye movement study of the effect author's writing styles has on fixation duration and reading speed forms the basis of the research proposal. The researcher of this study will use S2 Eye Tracker to record eye movements. By using software provided by the manufacturer of the S2 Eye Trackers, it will detect eye fixations. The goal of this eye-movement and reading study is to compare different writing styles to ascertain what effect writing styles have on reading speed. Surprisingly, there is a lack of eye tracking research studies on how we process writing styles during reading literature novels, and the effect it has on reading speed. The reason is that there are several types of writing styles that are used in novels and other type of readings. Writing styles serve the purpose of not presenting a reader with any interference from the ideas in the words a reader is reading. Reading novels and other works as well helps to develop vocabulary and writing style. Reading novels should stimulate intellect and makes a reader think. An overall legible and readable novel with clear writing style helps motivate the reader to continue reading, or at least do not encourage discontinuation. Reading speed is the focus of this study for these reasons.

Speed in reading is chiefly determined by how fast a reader can comprehend a text. The development of speed in reading is explained in terms of automaticity at identifying words' sounds and meanings on sight. The notion is that automatic reading involves developing solid orthographic representations (an association between letters and sounds), and thus there should be the ability to translate letters-to-sounds fluently to speed read more efficiently (LaBerge, & Samuels, 1974). Therefore, as automaticity in reading increases, fluency in reading increases, and as fluency in reading increases, speed in reading increases.

During reading and tracking tasks, eye tracking is a technique to identify and measure eye movements; in many performances of cognitive tasks, studies used eye movements to address visual behaviour (Underwood & Batt, 1996). A central issue within this condition is the use of eye movements to study cognitive processes and information processes. While the eyes scan through visual information, the eyes prefer certain location of visual information over others. The eyes do not follow the sweep movement, which is when a reader's eyes read as they move to the ending of one line of the material and moves onto the next paragraph (Starr, & Rayner, 2001).

Saccade, fixation and regression are three of the vital aspects of eye movement (Underwood & Batt, 1996). Saccade refers to rapid small movements of an eye that allows us to consume visual information or images with the fovea (Underwood & Batt, 1996). Saccades represent short time intervals that the viewer is oblivious of the breaks in information perception as very little or no visual information is acquired by the viewer during a saccade (Underwood & Batt, 1996; Rayner, 1998). Fixation refers to a period of time when the eyes remain still when viewing at a word, and is an indication of where a viewer's attention is directed (Underwood & Batt, 1996; Rayner, 1998). It represents the acquisition, processing of information while fixated on text (Rayner, 1998). Regression, part of saccadic behaviors, refers to re-reading of a difficult content, and it denotes confusion (Underwood & Batt, 1996). An individual who is fluent in reading should have shorter fixation durations, longer saccades, and very few regressions (Starr, & Rayner, 2001), as opposed to an individual who is not capable of fully comprehending the material being read. This does not mean that slow readers are not skilled readers. Rayner, Slattery, & Bélanger (2010) stated that slow readers can read and perfectly as fast reader, but at a slower rate.

Measures of eye movements could aid in understanding the process of visual reading that involves attention, time in processing visual information, as well as the way the brain controls the eyes when encountering visual information. Just and Carpenter (1980) stated that the relationship between eye movement and language processing is based on two assumptions. One is the immediacy assumption, meaning that as soon as a word is fixated on, an interpretation is immediately attached (Just and Carpenter, 1980). The other assumption is the eye-mind assumption, meaning that the eye remained fixated on a word on condition that the word that the eye is fixated on is being processed (Just and Carpenter, 1980). The fixation duration varies proportionally with the quantity of information that must be processed (Just and Carpenter, 1980). For exemplar, a grammatically complex sentence takes more time to process than a simple sentence.

The objective of this present experimental study is to determine whether the fixation duration periods during reading literature novels depend on the type of writing style, and whether writing style affect the speed in reading. Writing styles are crucial in understanding the role of speed in the reading process. It is hypothesized that a novel with a writing style that is clear and to the point with normal writing conventions, a reader should have shorter fixation durations, longer saccades, and fewer regressions, particularly when a reader is already familiar with or is able to follow a novel that is created through the use of unconventional styles of writing. More specifically, if an author of a novel adopts a writing style which does not adhere to popular writing conventions, a reader should fixate on the words longer with no saccades.


Participants will be recruited from Trent University with flyers that will enclose contact information, and will be posted on the campus. All must have normal or corrected to normal vision, and must be a native speaker of English. The stimuli consisted of three different novels, and each novel is written by different author. Blindness by José Saramago is chosen for this experimental study because there is an absence of regular writing features of a novel such as no quotation marks, no paragraphs, and run-on sentences. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is also chosen for this experimental study for the reason that the book is more like poetry than narrative prose with run-on sentences, no punctuation and other grammatical structures. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is selected for this experimental study because it employs several normal writing and narrative devices. Two chapters of each story will be assigned to a writing style issue for each participant. The selection of different contents of the stories for participants to read is to record eye fixations and to examine if writing style has an effect on reading speed. There are other novels with different writing styles.

The reading tasks will be provided in a room free from distraction. During the experiment, participants sit at a distance of about 60.95cm away from S2 Eye Tracker. Participants will be instructed to read the first two chapters of the stories for comprehension. At that point, task stories will be randomly presented, followed by a reading comprehension test. The study will take up to approximately four and an hour and a half hour (three one -hour and a half sessions). The researcher will use Eyegaze Edge system to collect and analyze the experimental data. Eyegaze Edge record eye gaze fixations, and can automatically and continuously track eye gaze fixations from the right eye even if the right eye diverges from reading, except the left eye at analysis time. The researcher can calculate reading statistics such as reading speed, regressions and measures of word gazes. The researcher can address the question of whether writing style issues affect and predict reading speed from collecting the eye gaze fixation patterns.