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Percept Psychophys. 2003 May;65(4):536-52.

Word identification and eye fixation locations in visual and visual-plus-auditory presentations of spoken sentences.

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  • 1Department of Speech and Hearing Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois 61820, USA.


In this study, we investigated where people look on talkers' faces as they try to understand what is being said. Sixteen young adults with normal hearing and demonstrated average speechreading proficiency were evaluated under two modality presentation conditions: vision only versus vision plus low-intensity sound. They were scored for the number of words correctly identified from 80 unconnected sentences spoken by two talkers. The results showed two competing tendencies: an eye primacy effect that draws the gaze to the talkers eyes during silence and an information source attraction effect that draws the gaze to the talker's mouth during speech periods. Dynamic shifts occur between eyes and mouth prior to speech onset and following the offset of speech, and saccades tend to be suppressed during speech periods. The degree to which the gaze is drawn to the mouth during speech and the degree to which saccadic activity is suppressed depend on the difficulty of the speech identification task. Under the most difficult modality presentation condition, vison only, accuracy was related to average sentence difficulty and individual proficiency in visual speech perception, but not to the proportion of gaze time directed toward the talkers mouth or toward other parts of the talker's face.

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