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Mem Cognit. 2005 Apr;33(3):447-61.

Memory for word location during reading: eye movements to previously read words are spatially selective but not precise.

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Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Binghamton, New York 13902, USA.


In two experiments, readers' use of spatial memory was examined by asking them to determine whether an individually shown probe word had appeared in a previously read sentence (Experiment 1) or had occupied a right or left sentence location (Experiment 2). Under these conditions, eye movements during the classification task were generally directed toward the right, irrespective of the location of the relevant target in the previously read sentence. In two additional experiments, readers' knowledge of prior sentence content was examined either without (Experiment 3) or with (Experiment 4) an explicit instruction to move the eyes to a target word in that sentence. Although regressions into the prior sentence were generally directed toward the target, they rarely reached it. In the absence of accurate spatial memories, readers reached previously read target words in two distinct steps--one that moved the eyes in the general vicinity of the target, and one that homed in on it.

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