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PLoS One. 2019 Feb 6;14(2):e0210900. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210900. eCollection 2019.

The impact of hyperlinks on reading text.

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School of Psychology, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.
School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, United Kingdom.


There has been debate about whether blue hyperlinks on the Web cause disruption to reading. A series of eye tracking experiments were conducted to explore if coloured words in black text had any impact on reading behaviour outside and inside a Web environment. Experiment 1 and 2 explored the saliency of coloured words embedded in single sentences and the impact on reading behaviour. In Experiment 3, the effects of coloured words/hyperlinks in passages of text in a Web-like environment was explored. Experiment 1 and 2 showed that multiple coloured words in text had no negative impact on reading behaviour. However, if the sentence featured only a single coloured word, a reduction in skipping rates was observed. This suggests that the visual saliency associated with a single coloured word may signal to the reader that the word is important, whereas this signalling is reduced when multiple words are coloured. In Experiment 3, when reading passages of text containing hyperlinks in a Web environment, participants showed a tendency to re-read sentences that contained hyperlinked, uncommon words compared to hyperlinked, common words. Hyperlinks highlight important information and suggest additional content, which for more difficult concepts, invites rereading of the preceding text.

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Conflict of interest statement

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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