Reading a paper call Eye Movements in Reading and Information Processing: 20 Years of Research (published in 1998).  Gonna use this thing to take notes. 

  • It being 11 years old seems a bit old, but perhaps most of the interesting stuff was found early on?
  • Basic terminology:
    • Saccade – when eye moves from looking at point A to point B
      • Duration of a saccade related to distance covered: 2º take 30ms, 5º take 40-50ms
      • saccade latency – saccade a motor movement –> latency – 150-170ms.
        • separate process: decision on when and where to move eyes
        • evidence: cognitive processes can influence latency
        • gap effect – if fixation point disappears before appearance of target, latency goes down
      • global center of gravity effect – given two objects, first saccade goes between them.  Position related to “weight” of objects (closer to heavier).

    • Types of large movement:
      • Pursuit – eyes follow a target
      • Vergence – eyes move inward to fixate on an object
      • Vestibular – compensation for head/body movement
    • Types of small movement:
      • Nystagmus – the constant tremor in the eyes.  We are never really stably focused.
      • Drift – slow, small movement.  Slower than Nystagmus.
      • Microsaccade – a fast saccade to correct for drift
  • Question:
    • Fast vs. Slow readers, are there differences in:
      • saccade speed
      • stability of nystagmus
      • speed of vergence (is there vergence in reading?)
      • presence and speed of drift

Got tired of reading, decided to skim.  Noteworthy things I, ahem, noticed:

  • fast readers have
      • shorter fixations,
      • longer saccades,
      • fewer regressions
    • same holds for bilingual readers when difference is between primary and secondary languages
  • no data on speed-readers, but the style and comprehension resembled that of skimming
  • it looks like asymmetry in span (~3 characters to the left, up to 17 characters to the right – need to verify this) develops over the course of reading


  • the information presented was more of an observation of how we read rather than studies on how speed could be improved, although some such information followed.
  • it seems to me that a new way of reading, requiring consistent training, may be possible.  Moreover, I am sure it has been done before.  Ideal scenario, although impossible, seems to me to be one where reading is a bit like sitting in a train and observing things passing by – i.e. effortless.  To do that, the motor skills need to be trained to be systematic minimizing regression, yet ensuring that all information is registered.  So, I would do the following:
    • purpose:
      • maximize area covered per glance
      • make process systematic reducing errors
    • exercises that isolate and quantify:
      • saccade strategy (where a person looks)
      • increase/balance span – attempt to balance left/right span and increase it
      • reduce duration of fixation without reduction in comprehension
  • what seems to be a crucial element of all this is the fact that reading technique may be only a part of the necessary training.  What may be far more important is building up the ability to process information that is quickly acquired.
    • For example, I noticed that, when I am reading, I can get to a point of skimming fairly fast, but, if I become disinterested or if my mind starts to wonder, I do not retain information.

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Filed under Info Management, Learning

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