Forced Fixations, Trans-saccadic Integration, and Word Recognition: Evidence for a Hybrid Mechanism of Saccade Triggering in Reading

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Description: Recent studies using the gaze-contingent boundary paradigm reported a reversed preview benefit – shorter fixations on a target word when an unrelated preview was easier to process than the fixated target (Schotter & Leinenger, 2016). This is explained via forced fixations – short fixations on words that would ideally be skipped (because lexical processing has progressed enough) but could not be because saccade planning reached a point of no return. This contrasts with accounts of preview effects via trans-saccadic integration – shorter fixations on a target word when the preview is more similar to it (see Cutter, Drieghe, & Liversedge, 2015). Additionally, if the previewed word – not the fixated target – determines subsequent eye movements, is it also this word that enters the linguistic processing stream? We tested these accounts by having 24 subjects read 150 sentences in the boundary paradigm in which both the preview and target were initially plausible but later one, both, or neither became implausible, providing an opportunity to probe which one was linguistically encoded. In an intervening buffer region, both words were plausible, providing an opportunity to investigate trans-saccadic integration. The frequency of the previewed word affected progressive saccades (i.e., forced fixations) as well as when trans-saccadic integration failure increased regressions, but, only the implausibility of the target word affected semantic encoding. These data support a hybrid account of saccadic control (Reingold, Reichle, Glaholt, & Sheridan, 2012) driven by incomplete (often parafoveal) word recognition, which occurs prior to complete (often foveal) word recognition.

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