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J Vis. 2016 Sep 1;16(11):8. doi: 10.1167/16.11.8.

The dynamic effect of reading direction habit on spatial asymmetry of image perception.


Exploration of images after stimulus onset is initially biased to the left. Here, we studied the causes of such an asymmetry and investigated effects of reading habits, text primes, and priming by systematically biased eye movements on this spatial bias in visual exploration. Bilinguals first read text primes with right-to-left (RTL) or left-to-right (LTR) reading directions and subsequently explored natural images. In Experiment 1, native RTL speakers showed a leftward free-viewing shift after reading LTR primes but a weaker rightward bias after reading RTL primes. This demonstrates that reading direction dynamically influences the spatial bias. However, native LTR speakers who learned an RTL language late in life showed a leftward bias after reading either LTR or RTL primes, which suggests the role of habit formation in the production of the spatial bias. In Experiment 2, LTR bilinguals showed a slightly enhanced leftward bias after reading LTR text primes in their second language. This might contribute to the differences of native RTL and LTR speakers observed in Experiment 1. In Experiment 3, LTR bilinguals read normal (LTR, habitual reading) and mirrored left-to-right (mLTR, nonhabitual reading) texts. We observed a strong leftward bias in both cases, indicating that the bias direction is influenced by habitual reading direction and is not secondary to the actual reading direction. This is confirmed in Experiment 4, in which LTR participants were asked to follow RTL and LTR moving dots in prior image presentation and showed no change in the normal spatial bias. In conclusion, the horizontal bias is a dynamic property and is modulated by habitual reading direction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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