Return-sweep saccades during reading in adults and children.


Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science & Technology, Bournemouth University, Talbot Campus, Poole BH12 5BB, United Kingdom. Electronic address: [Email]


During reading, eye movement patterns differ between children and adults. Children make more fixations that are longer in duration and make shorter saccades. Return-sweeps are saccadic eye movements that move a reader's fixation to a new line of text. Return-sweeps move fixation further than intra-line saccades and often undershoot their target. This necessitates a corrective saccade to bring fixation closer to the start of the line. There have been few empirical investigations of return-sweep saccades in adults, and even fewer in children. In the present study, we examined return-sweeps of 47 adults and 48 children who read identical multiline texts. We found that children launch their return-sweeps closer to the end of the line and target a position closer to the left margin. Therefore, children fixate more extreme positions on the screen when reading for comprehension. Furthermore, children required a corrective saccade following a return-sweep more often than adults. Analysis of the duration of the fixation preceding the corrective saccade indicated that children are as efficient as adults at responding to retinal feedback following a saccade. Rather than consider differences in adult's and children's return-sweep behaviour an artefact of oculomotor control, we believe that these differences represent adult's ability to utilise parafoveal processing to encode text at extreme positions.


Children,Eye movements,Oculomotor control,Reading,Return-sweep saccades,