Does text contrast mediate binocular advantages in reading?

Jainta, Stephanie, Nikolova, Mirela and Liversedge, Simon Paul orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8579-8546 (2017) Does text contrast mediate binocular advantages in reading? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43 (1). pp. 55-68. ISSN 0096-1523

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Humans typically make use of both of their eyes in reading and efficient processes of binocular vision provide a stable, single percept of the text. Binocular reading also comes with an advantage: reading speed is high and word frequency effects (i.e., faster lexical processing of words that are more often encountered in a language) emerge during fixations, which is not the case for monocular reading (Jainta, Blythe, & Liversedge, 2014). A potential contributor to this benefit is the reduced contrast in monocular reading: reduced text contrasts in binocular reading are known to slow down reading and word identification (Reingold & Rayner, 2006). To investigate whether contrast reduction mediates the binocular advantage, we first replicated increased reading time and nullified frequency effects for monocular reading (Experiment 1). Next, we reduced the contrast for binocular but whole sentences to 70% (Weber-contrast); this reading condition resembled monocular reading, but found no effect on reading speed and word identification (Experiment 2). A reasonable conclusion, therefore, was that a reduction in contrast is not the (primary) factor that mediates less efficient lexical processing under monocular reading. In a third experiment (Experiment 3) we reduced the sentence contrast to 40% and the pattern of results showed that, globally, reading was slowed down but clear word frequency effects were present in the data. Thus, word identification processes during reading (i.e., the word frequency effect) were qualitatively different in monocular reading compared with effects observed when text was read with substantially reduced contrast.

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