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Psychol Aging. 2006 Sep;21(3):448-65.

The effect of word frequency, word predictability, and font difficulty on the eye movements of young and older readers.

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Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 01003, USA.


Young adult and older readers' eye movements were recorded as they read sentences containing target words that varied in frequency or predictability. In addition, half of the sentences were printed in a font that was easy to read (Times New Roman) and the other half were printed in a font that was more difficult to read (Old English). Word frequency, word predictability, and font difficulty effects were apparent in the eye movement data of both groups of readers. In the fixation time data, the pattern of results was the same, but the older readers had larger frequency and predictability effects than the younger readers. The older readers skipped words more often than the younger readers (as indicated by their skipping rate on selected target words), but they made more regressions back to the target words and more regressions overall. The E-Z Reader model was used as a platform to evaluate the results, and simulations using the model suggest that lexical processing is slowed in older readers and that, possibly as a result of this, they adopt a more risky reading strategy.

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