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J Exp Child Psychol. 1986 Apr;41(2):211-36.

Eye movements and the perceptual span in beginning and skilled readers.


Four experiments are reported which examined the size of the perceptual span in second-, fourth-, and sixth-grade children, as well as adult skilled readers. The results indicated that the perceptual span in beginning readers is slightly smaller than the perceptual span of skilled readers. Using a moving window technique, it was found that the perceptual span of beginning readers extends about 11 character spaces to the right of fixation; for skilled readers, the span extends 14-15 spaces to the right of fixation. Beginning readers apparently devote more of their processing to the foveally fixated word than more proficient readers, but their perceptual span appears to be asymmetric to the right of fixation as is the case for skilled readers. The results of the experiments also indicated that the size of the perceptual span is variable and can be influenced by the difficulty of the text. It is concluded that the size of the perceptual span does not cause beginning readers' slow reading rates.

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