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Method of Reading Discovered

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the going-crosseyed dept.

Science 181

Scientists have discovered that the method our eyes use to process letters on a page is different than previously believed. Instead of assimilating one letter at a time our eyes actually lock on to two different letters simultaneously about half the time. "The team's results demonstrated that both eyes lock on to the same letter 53% of the time; for 39% of the time they see different letters with uncrossed eyes; and for 8% of the time the eyes are crossing to focus on different letters. A follow-up experiment with the eye-tracking equipment showed that we only see one clear image when reading because our brain fuses the different images from our eyes together."

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181 comments

Frsit Psot (5, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541039)

If yuo corss yuor eeys smoetemis, you sohlud be albe to raed tihs qitue eailsy. I terid it, and it mdae all the sepllnig msitaeks on salsdhot go aawy. Hvewoer, it ddi not ipormve Sttucle Mkoney's eitding.

Re:Frsit Psot (1)

biocute (936687) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541117)

I wished it was true, but this discovery is about cross-eyeing letters, not words.

Re:Frsit Psot (0, Offtopic)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542109)

Buy Slashdot shares NOW!!! [xmoo.com]

So is everyone slowly going broke in your game? That 1% commission is a lot to fade.

Re:Frsit Psot (1)

kalirion (728907) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541239)

Wow, I actually read that pretty easily. Except for Sttucle, which caused me to look at the editor's name.

Re:Frsit Psot (3, Interesting)

Paradise Pete (33184) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541953)

Wow, I actually read that pretty easily.

Yaeh, it's prttey amaizng taht as lnog as the begnning and the enidng of the wrod are coerrct taht you can raed it at alomst full speed.

Re:Frsit Psot (2, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542283)

Yeah, I can tell what it's intended to say, but it still doesn't mean I'd accept stuff like that. It's almost as bad as text-message writing.

Re:Frsit Psot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542439)

Yeah, until the words get too long. Then it gets rlluucoiidsy dlffuiict, if not oghirutt iilssbopme.

Re:Frsit Psot (2, Interesting)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542583)

I only slowed down for one word, "oghirutt", and I still don't know what that one is since I refuse to think about it. The rest was straightforward, as long as the word shape doesn't change much.

Maybe my memory is bad, but didn't scientists use to think we read the whole word at the same time, unless it was unusallly long and unfamiliar? In which case, we read it a syllable at a time. Reading skill was measured more or less in how many syllables one could ingest at the same time.

Re:Frsit Psot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20541521)

Indeed, I have yet to RTFA (eye muss knot bee knew hear) but from the post, it looks like the research must have been done by either a group of dyslexics or the researchers went to the study on the short bus.

If I had to pick out words a letter or two at a time it would take a month to read a novel instead of the two or three hours it takes. Maybe I'm some kind of a wierdo, but I look at the whole word, perhaps groups of words. I haven't picked words up two letters at a time since the first grade when I first learned to read.

I hate seeing shit like this, it's bad enough that it takes less time to read the four paragraphs of a FA (click for page thirty seven) than for the next ad-laden page to load, this'll give them an excuse to cut the content-per-page down even more.

Actually, since I was reading at an 8th grade level in 2nd grade I MUST be some kind of wierdo! Now if y'all wil excuse me, I'll go RTFA now. Be back in about fifteen seconds... that is, if they diodn't split it into 74 two paragraph "pages".

-mcgrew [mcgrew.info]

(Mind reading capcha="speeder". Good work, guys!)

Re:Frsit Psot (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20541929)

Maybe not...if your in the USA, your probably quite normal. The education system is quite watered down now days for the dummies here ya know, so what they say is an eight grade level is probably just what a normal second grader can do.

Re:Frsit Psot (2, Interesting)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542311)

I recently got a book on speed-reading.

One of those "as seen on TV" type.

I thought I'd give it a try, if only to see what I'm doing wrong.

Then I found out I could have written that book: it only teaches lousy readers stuff people who have had enough reading practice learned by themselves.

One of the first things in the book is testing your own reading speed. And the book says an average American should score about 200-250 words per minute, as calculated by the provided formula.

So I tested myself. And since the book's in English, I tested myself in English, which is not my native tongue.

I scored 453 wpm. On a completely unfamiliar English text.

Anyway, one of the first and easiest techniques described in the book was reading more than one letter at a time. Gee, thanks; I learned that when I was what, four?

So unless they conducted the study on first-graders, I'd say it's practically useless. Good readers focus on whole words, subliminally recognizing their shapes. That's why I can spot a spelling mistake in a text I'm not even reading - I just spot an odd, unfamiliar, "wrong" shape (at least in Croatian; English still takes a tiny little bit of conscious effort).

BTW, I'm so very disappointed in the survey for one more reason: I'd thought its results would help the development of OCR, but I guess that was too much to expect.

Re:Frsit Psot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542581)

If yuo corss yuor eeys smoetemis, you sohlud be albe to raed tihs qitue eailsy. I terid it, and it mdae all the sepllnig msitaeks on salsdhot go aawy. Hvewoer, it ddi not ipormve Sttucle Mkoney's eitding.
I'm pretty sure you misspelled "yuo", because yuo used that word twice and it's not spelled the same both times.

RTFA (1)

spazmolytic666 (549909) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541057)

Now if only someone could discover a method for making /.ers RTFA.

Re:RTFA (3, Funny)

zeromorph (1009305) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541433)

I'll keep my eyes crossed for that.

Patented (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20541081)

Since I've already patented a method to use our eyes use to process letters on a page, I'll be heading down to Texas to hash it out with the lawyers...

flawed in the first place (5, Interesting)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541089)

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

In other words, this study was flawed in the first place. Our eyes don't look at individual letters, they look at groups at a time. I learned this in high school....

Re:flawed in the first place (5, Interesting)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541205)

A_d y_t t___e e___a l_____s a_e i_______t.

And yet those extra letters are important.

Bt yu cn lv ot innr vwls and stll be mstly rdble.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542401)

Bt yu cn lv ot innr vwls and stll be mstly rdble.

That's been known since cuneiform times at the very least.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

Stamen (745223) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541241)

Oh really? Kindly link to said study at Cambridge University (or Cmabrigde Uinervtisy if you prefer) that are referring too.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

WiglyWorm (1139035) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541347)

This is just a meme on the internet so far as I know, I just posted the meme as it is repeatedly posted. Still, you could read it fine and that's the point.

Re:flawed in the first place (2, Informative)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541479)

Debunked [ideacode.lt] here but still interesting.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541531)

Still, you could read it fine and that's the point.

No, you could read it at approximately one tenth of the speed you'd normally read a line.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

rah1420 (234198) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541669)

No, you could read it at approximately one tenth of the speed you'd normally read a line.


Bullshit. I read it at full speed and marveled at being able to do so. Whether it was tweaked over the various UL iterations to allow me to do so is another story entirely.

Re:flawed in the first place (2, Insightful)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541939)

Did you time your reading? Unless you read things like that every day, you very likely didn't read at full speed, only almost at most. The words are indeed prepared to be easily readable, even though they seem randomly jumbled, but it still requires more processing than non-jumbled words. The more you jumble, the more difficult it becomes, no surprise there.


The surprise from being able to read what at first glance looks like nonsense is indeed a surprise, and that masks the effort that actually went into interpreting it. Explanations/debunkings are available on the net.

Re:flawed in the first place (2, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541589)

Here's a decent rundown of the thing [cam.ac.uk] it made the front page here at the dot - though I'm having a tougher time tracking that down.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541289)

There is a minor exception to the first and last letter rule: on three letter words, the second and third letter can be switched.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

hax0r_this (1073148) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541405)

If I learned that in high school, but I was using an ssh tunnel to bypass their firewall to get on myspace does that still count as learning it in high school?

"Bnikaerg-dwon"pemenohs allacitamotuy, aletaruccy? (5, Informative)

dzurn (62738) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541435)

Baloney. If we can read that it's because we are already good readers. "Whole Language" is where good readers end up, but that's not how we learn to BECOME good readers.

Seriously, try this one, Mr. Wizard:

"Atluds nveer tkae tmie to tnihk aoubt how to pcnuonore the iaudividnl wdros; tehy jsut sacn anolg at a vrey fsat cilp and triehr bniars tkae crae of the "bnikaerg-dwon" of the pmargonohs allacitamotuy and aletaruccy. Hevewor, ttha's atluds who lenraed to raed wtih pcinohs. Atluds who rley olny on shgit-rgnidaeg teuqinhces rleray gnia mcuh foitcnun, and boy, deos taht sohw in our steicoy tadoy, wtih rlevitaley low lleves of lcaretiy cerapmod to gnoitarenes psat. Cerdlihn tadoy, who dno't hvae pcinohs ioitcurtsnn, are bllacisay gnisseug at waht wdros maen, and it swohs in enihtyrevg form sezidradnatd tset serocs to lcaretiy deicneicifes in the wcalpkroe."
From http://www.gobiged.com/wfdata/frame265-1059/pressrel45.asp [gobiged.com]

Y Hole Langwidg Seams OK

[...] Adults never take time to think about how to pronounce the individual words; they just scan along at a very fast clip and their brains take care of the "breaking down" of the phonograms automatically and accurately. However, that's adults who learned to read with phonics. Adults who rely only on sight-reading techniques rarely gain much function, and boy, does that show in our society today, with relatively low levels of literacy compared to generations past. Children today, who don't have phonics instruction, are basically guessing at what words mean, and it shows in everything from standardized test scores to literacy deficiencies in the workplace.

Re:"Bnikaerg-dwon"pemenohs allacitamotuy, aletaruc (2, Funny)

dzurn (62738) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541583)

Sorry, I mistyped a word:

Atluds who rley olny on shgit-rgnidaeg teuqinhces rleray gnia mcuh foitcnun
should be

Atluds who rley olny on shgit-rgnidaeg teuqinhces rleray gian mcuh foitcnun

In my defense, I must say it was really hard to proofread.

Re:"Bnikaerg-dwon"pemenohs allacitamotuy, aletaruc (1)

Kamots (321174) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542121)

Given that this is slashdot and all... I've got to wonder why you didn't whip up a quick script to do your internal reversing? :P

Re:"Bnikaerg-dwon"pemenohs allacitamotuy, aletaruc (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542145)

Thanks. Now I know why I was having trouble reading it.

Re:"Bnikaerg-dwon"pemenohs allacitamotuy, aletaruc (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542611)

The article isn't talking about "learning to read" though, it's talking about how we read. It makes no distinction at all about how we learn to read, and therefore has absolutely nothing to do with "whole language" method versus phonetic method.

By the way, I've never seen your example before and the only word I had trouble with was "Adults" in the first sentence. Once I saw it repeated, however, the context made sense and it was fairly obvious what the paragraph was saying. As for children "basically guessing at what words mean" that's been the case for as long as children have been learning to read. Just ask any child what words mean as they're reading and much (not most but much) of the time you'll find they aren't sure and guess.

Re:"Bnikaerg-dwon"pemenohs allacitamotuy, aletaruc (1)

Reziac (43301) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543223)

In my observation, "whole word recognition" (or "see first three letters, make WAG at rest of word") is how many dyslexics read (actually, ALL those I know personally and have watched reading do WWR of some sort). WWR simply teaches everyone to read at the minimal level achieved by untutored dyslexics. IOW, it makes everyone equally crippled!

When I RTFA, my first thought was -- Oh, that explains "letters crawl around" dyslexics; their brain doesn't re-integrate the letter groups properly.

I'm also reminded of a friend who has been in the dyslexia research program at the university in San Diego for over 25 years... where they found that an instant cure could be achieved by reading glasses which cause "lag" for one eye, causing the letters to be processed in the correct order.

So... TFA isn't so much news as confirmation of what we already knew.

Don't really understand (1)

rodney dill (631059) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541875)

So you don't really understand what I'm saying when I say.

Where did you get the form from

Re:flawed in the first place (2, Informative)

necro2607 (771790) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541917)

Ahh OK for the record, Cambridge University didn't do any of this alleged research [cam.ac.uk] , according to Matt Davis, a "cognitive neuroscientist interested in language" working in the Cognition and Brain Science unit at Cambridge. Read the link for further details, and a lot more interesting analysis/discussion on this same phenomenon in other languages and whatnot. :)

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542227)

Our eyes don't look at individual letters, they look at groups at a time. I learned this in high school....

Actually, it appears as though our brain does like the inverse of how a fractal is generated. Fractals get more detail until you quit. Our brain gets the outline of the text, and context, and other things, and then gets the meaning of what is said. THAT IS WHY CAPS ARE HARDER TO READ. The letters are the same, but the spacing between characters and their height helps us.

Also, I thought this was old info as well. We don't know the details, but we know about chunking and whatnot.

I also find it interesting that we parse sentences similar to the way a computer does. AFAIK, this is the most similar thing that a computer does to a human.

Good god (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543051)

Why can't one of you people read even just the first two paragraphs of the article? Sheesh. This is not about chunking.

Re:flawed in the first place (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542465)

And that was almost 20 years ago for me.

This is nothing exciting and certainly isn't news.

Braille (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542693)

I'd be curious if the effect works with braille. Is the information routed through the area of the brain needed to "unmix" letters or not? I would guess yes, but the result would be interesting either way. Some processes take place in the eye itself, but this doesn't seem like one of them.

That looks about right (1)

dontspitconfetti (1153473) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541107)

I don't ever remember starting to idenitify whole words one letter at a time anyway...

Re:That looks about right (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541525)

I've had long arguments with teachers and other parents about the phonetic learning methods because of this type of thing.

I think good, fast, accurate reading comes from developing the ability to recognize words, and eventually sentences and paragraphs, as discrete compound glyphs that have an associative meaning, rather than as a composition of a series of sounds.

This is the way I read, and I am a very fast reader compared to most and quite possibly all other people I have met.

I am also known by all my friends for using words that I cannot say, because they are the word that most accurately represents what I'm trying to express, but I've never heard them used in conversation before.

I think that people who learn to read phonetically and compositionally are taking the letters, turning them into a sound in their head, then referencing the auditory sections of the brain looking for a match to achieve comprehension.

The fact that they do it that way means they're more likely to parrot a word they do not understand based on the letters and do it correctly, but not to attempt to communicate with the word unless someone has said it in conversation and they got the meaning there, prompting them to attempt to use the word.

I contrast that with my own internal approach, which is that these markings on the page are a single glyph that means something, and the fact that they are composed of these other letter glyphs is kind of arbitrary and irrelevant.

Which leads to me attempting to translate the glyph into letters, then the letters into sounds, then the sounds into a spoken word, and all this during conversation. So I'll say words wrong that I've read a thousand times but never had anyone say to me.

Eventually I'll create a sound symbol for the glyph, but it happens during the "talking about what you read" phase, rather than during the "reading and understanding what you're reading" phase.

I think this is important, because one model will let you pass a standardized test under scrutiny without being a good reader or understanding what you're reading, while the other will let you consume vast amounts of written material with great speed and comprehension but sound a little funny in conversations about obscure subjects with experts on those subjects.

Re:That looks about right (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542065)

There is likely a whole bunch of evidence of that right here on slashdot: people who don't speak English every day, if ever, but still have a rich vocabulary with words they don't quite know how to pronounce. I present myself as one of these, or at least I used to be.


In any case, the different models of comprehension you present sound plausible, but I'm thinking some people would prefer one over the other because it fits with their pattern of thinking. Similar to how some people learn best when told, others learn when they read, and some learn when they do.

Re:That looks about right (1)

Kamots (321174) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542171)

You sound a lot like me... I'm always using words in conversation that I have no clue how to pronounce.

And if I need to spell something, I have a lot more luck if I write it down to see the entire "glyph", rather than thinking about the individual letters.

On a related side note, this has got me thinking about how I spell when I type. I've realized that I don't think of the letters so much as I think of patterns that I move my fingers through. Our brains are a strange strange beast...

Re:That looks about right (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542697)

Almost anyone who reads a lot exhibits the bahavior you seem to think makes you peculiar. Damn near every person I've ever met who's speaking a second (or beyond) language has the same issue and almost all children who read with any sort of regularity mispronounce words because they've never heard them before. It has more to do with processing language as a whole than with phonetics versus something else.

Re:That looks about right (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542969)


Posting only to say that it's great to find someone else who functions in a similar way. I read from a very early age and learned a lot of my words from books rather than conversation. I think one further advantage of this approach is that I can make very educated guesses at the meaning of words and how to spell them, based on an understanding of their origins or close relations. That couldn't be easily replicated by anyone who functioned by translating them into sounds. I also find that a much slower approach. I'm only vaguely aware of "phonics." Am I to understand that this is how children are being taught to read these days? Sounds dubious. I see a lot of information contained in the written language being discarded if this is the coming generation.

actually.. (0)

vurg (639307) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541125)

from

Anchor Man Reference (2, Funny)

ttapper04 (955370) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541135)

"lock on to two different letters simultaneously about half the time."


...half the time, every time.

I thought we already knew this. (2, Interesting)

DavidTC (10147) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541149)

I could have sworn we knew this was where dyslexic came from, that you see two letters that don't end up in the right order in your head.

Re:I thought we already knew this. (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542861)

How about Spoonerisms? I haven't read all of this topic, but, in the 7th grade, what got me hooked on Spoonerisms was a friend saying:

"Miss on YOU pister. You aren't so MUCKing FUTCH. Why don't you go in your jack yard and back off."

Of course, that got me into trouble a few times. Once, I hailed out to my mom that this TV movie, starring Elizabeth Montgomery, was starting. I said, "Ohh, mom, it's that lady from Webitched".

She scrambled over to me and yelled that she had told me switching words around would one day get me into trouble.

Just a few months ago, I noticed an under bay tube was jammed with traffic. In an instant, my mind thought, "The boobs are tacked up", not "The tubes are backed up."

So how does this study relate THINKING to READING, when thoughts move faster than they eyes.

But, don't go to your favorite book store asking for a copy of "A Sale of Two *itties"...

Non-alphabetic systems? (4, Interesting)

natpoor (142801) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541193)

That's pretty cool, but what about non-alphabetic systems, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean? Does the physical act of reading depend at all on the unit of meaning we are scanning with our eyes? Not that the researchers should have done this in the same experiment, they're in England, so it makes sense for them to stick to the native language.

Re:Non-alphabetic systems? (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541487)

They should study how a person with only one eye reads also. Or one eye closed.

Braille (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541927)

It would be interesting to compare tactile reading to visual reading. How much is pre-processed by the eye(s), how much is handled by the brain, and how much is routed around the brain?

Re:Non-alphabetic systems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542261)

We wont find out for ourselves here, since high technical excellent tasting slashdot does not support Unicode.

And using romaji just sucks...

ma, yatet mriu.
nnanan dyao, sruashduttoo ha. ynuikdodo to yutuifefu mo ttotmeo htiusyo draou.

Re:Non-alphabetic systems? (2, Interesting)

someme2 (670523) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542437)

That's pretty cool, but what about non-alphabetic systems, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean?

Korean (Hangul) is an alphabetic system. The study might be really interesting there because Korean letters are always aggregated in blocks of two or three letters. It's part of the way they write. I have no idea if Koreans read these blocks as one.
It's also a cool system because it was designed from scratch and follows a number of logical rules that makes it comparatively easy to learn (the alphabet... not the language). You can learn reading basic Hangul while on the plane to Korea.
The wikipedia article is quite good: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangul [wikipedia.org]

Re:Non-alphabetic systems? (1)

beer_maker (263112) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543053)

Yes, that's the way I read Hangul, syllabically. Since two of the other things Hangul verbs include are honorific suffixes and past-tense-indicative suffixes you would be tripling your effort to memorize the "whole word" pattern, and that ignores the short-form and long-form verb endings (which are interchangeable when speaking with your peers.) You quickly learn to parse those out while reading ... though occasionally I still mistake a honoriffic-and-past-tense suffix for a textual syllable, and then hilarity ensues for a few moments.

Here's an example, in SKATS [wikipedia.org] -transliterated syllables:

  • LE BE = kah tah = to go (dictionary form)
  • LEGG KT KN = kahs oh yo = (I) went (past-tense, short-form)
  • LE GGSGG KHM FU BE = kah shuh soom nee da = (you) went (honoriffic, past-tense, long-form)
The parent is spot-on regarding the amount of time it takes to learn to read Hangul, too ... although learning to understand it takes a bit longer.

Re:Non-alphabetic systems? (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542733)

Hate to disappoint you but Korean and Japanese both have alphabetic systems. Yes they also use Chinese characters (rarely for Korean) but they do have alphabets and they're both completely phonetic. IE the same letters always make the same sounds within a given structure.

Wonder how this works with Chinese, etc. (1)

Loosifur (954968) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541219)

I assume they're doing the study using the latin alphabet. It would be interesting to see if the process changes at all using a symbolic system like Chinese or Korean (forgot the name, Hanguk or something like that I think).

Re:Wonder how this works with Chinese, etc. (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542981)

Interestingly, I'm currently studying Hangukmal (Korean writing/language). It is a similar problem for Koreans and Japanese (and others using Asian languages), based on what some of my Korean and Japanese friends said. On the other hand, doing Spoonerism to one of them in English was frustrating because they have to make the rapid mental jumps in English to Japanese and back to English as part of translation. The joke/effect gets lost in the translation.

Switching around letters or removing them from English words is not always easy for non-native English speakers.

However, moving syllable blocks around can lead to actual words, but disrupting information exchange or making the sentence meaningless. Moving some characters in a syllable block can totally worsen things. I'm no language expert, so I'll bow out for non-english natives to chime in. Please, do, someone.

Re:Wonder how this works with Chinese, etc. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543203)

What would be an interesting thing, is whether or not readers of Chinese (on average) can read faster, because the word is just a single glyph.

So what... (1)

taff^2 (188189) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541227)

just because we know how to read now, doesn't mean the articles are gonna get read

Detailed but not News . . . (3, Interesting)

Dausha (546002) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541243)

I've known for about 20 years that we don't focus on one letter. There are numerous books that show that we (at least those using Latin alphabets) look at the shape of the top half of the word rather than each letter. All this does is break down literacy to crossing eyes, etc. Not really new.

Re:Detailed but not News . . . (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541469)

But, I can still read with one eye closed. How can I focus on more than one letter with one eye?

Re:Detailed but not News . . . (1)

Fweeky (41046) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541989)

You'll probably find you lose some speed and accuracy with just one eye.

Typographers knew it, too... (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542233)

...which is probably why font designers spend all that time setting up kerning pairs. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Detailed but not News . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542267)

My brain does not merge the pictures from my two eyes correctly, so I must read somehow differently.

Incidentally, I don't have depth perception either.

Total Recall (1)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541245)

Is this why when I was watching Total Recall that girl had 3 boobs? Were my eyes just tricking me and she only had 2?

Combined with earlier news this year. (3, Interesting)

juuri (7678) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541315)

You remember all that, the letter order doesn't matter when reading bit? (http://www.languagehat.com/archives/000840.php for a refresher).

It's always seemed pretty apparent to me that we don't reach letters in "correct order" by focusing only on a single one at a time. If that were the case things like speed-reading and scanning for content would be nearly impossible. Outside confirmation of this is nice however.

The real question is how much redundancy can we remove from printed words for faster information dispersal while still expressing things clearly. Sure, having everything spelled correctly and in long form is great for books for pleasure (art) but do we really need it for basic information sharing? Especially if doing so increases the time spent needlessly?

Re:Combined with earlier news this year. (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542219)

It's always seemed pretty apparent to me that we don't reach letters in "correct order" by focusing only on a single one at a time. If that were the case things like speed-reading and scanning for content would be nearly impossible. Outside confirmation of this is nice however.
Well then, despite your remarkable intelligence, you missed the point of the article, which was contained in its first two paragraphs.

It's not about where you "focus". It's about the fact that your two eyes look at different letters simultaneously while you read.

Re:Combined with earlier news this year. (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543113)

The real question is how much redundancy can we remove from printed words for faster information dispersal while still expressing things clearly. Sure, having everything spelled correctly and in long form is great for books for pleasure (art) but do we really need it for basic information sharing? Especially if doing so increases the time spent needlessly?

I think that would be redundant, or even counter-productive.

Our brains eliminate superfluous information automatically. However, something you find redundant may be necessary to me, e.g. because I speak a different first language (pulling a parallel with phonetic systems). Therefore it may mean a bit less work for some, and a lot more work for everyone else.

duh (2, Insightful)

jm.one (655706) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541319)

[i]"A follow-up experiment with the eye-tracking equipment showed that we only see one clear image when reading because our brain fuses the different images from our eyes together."[/i] Wait... they neeeded a follow up experiment to discover something that is so well known that it s rather common knowledge? I mean.. the other stuff isnt actually news either but this... and how does eye-trracking lead to a RESULT about what the brain does. I mean... an eye tracking experiment leading to a thesis.. or supporting a thesis about bain function... that sounds logic to me. To sum this up.. this slashdot article is badly written in multiple aspects.

Hmm... that could explain the headaches (2, Interesting)

Dhrakar (32366) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541337)

Very interesting. I wonder if this could be a contributing factor to why folks get headaches when reading on some computer screens. That is, computers, unlike books, are constantly redrawing the screen so not all of the letters may actually be visible very well at any one time. Your brain starts straining because it can't scan multiple letters (or entire words?) very well due to the flicker. Do eletronic book readers have a high refresh rate?

Re:Hmm... that could explain the headaches (1)

iknowcss (937215) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541573)

If that were the case, people would be able to perceive a "blinking" when they were sitting in front of a computer screen. Not to mention that many displays don't do any kind of "redraw" like LCDs. I think that the headache is caused by a constant focus on one plane of space. Your eye muscles tense up when you fixate on an object close to you (e.g. the computer screen). Remember they say to sit as far from the screen as possible? Your muscles are more relaxed when they don't have to strain as hard to focus on something really close.

Re:Hmm... that could explain the headaches (1)

imbaczek (690596) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541789)

It's possible to see blinking. I can see a CRT blink if I watch it from a high angle, it's quite apparent. Don't know why.

Didn't try that with more than 85Hz though; anyway it's pointless since LCDs don't blink at all.

Re:Hmm... that could explain the headaches (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542775)

If that were the case, people would be able to perceive a "blinking" when they were sitting in front of a computer screen.
Not necessarily. There is a big difference between perception and brain-eye operation. For example, there is a big hole in the middle of your eye there your optic nerve goes to your brain. There are various optical illusions that expose this fact. Yet you don't "perceive" a hole right in the middle of everything, it just happens to be significant in certain circumstances. The same can be said of reading. You don't perceive decoding each letter and each word in its constituent parts to make the concepts. This is the part that we still don't understand. However, testing if refresh rates have a negative impact on reading speed/comprehension can be tested by using different refresh rates, both perceived and not.

Re:Hmm... that could explain the headaches (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541663)

Most people's monitors are excessively bright (especially if they use the same brightness day & night), which causes eye strain.

Re:Hmm... that could explain the headaches (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543247)

E-paper is static - it stays where you left it, so you refresh it once per page and then remove power. That's what makes it so great for book reading and power comsumption. And yeah, like people mentioned, LCD's don't redraw pixels unless they change color. -Taylor

One meter away? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20541343)

Sophisticated eye-tracking equipment allowed the team to pinpoint which letter a volunteer's eyes focused on, when reading 14-point font from one metre away.

And I wonder how many people actually choose to read from that far away (?) In my observations, most people are at considerably less than half that distance from their monitor or book, especially for those of us who are near-sighted.

You insensitive clod (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20541353)

I'm a cyclopse.

But really, while I have two working eyes, they're independent of one another. So at any given time, I'm looking at something with just one eye.

but what if i close 1 eye? (1)

airdrummer (547536) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542843)

i can still read...

reading is a process of pattern recognition. (2, Insightful)

LOTHAR, of the Hill (14645) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541357)

Reading is a process of pattern recognition. We recognize and assemble patterns of letters/symbols and then associate those patterns with meaning. Some people can recognize larger patterns at a time, other people can only recognize shorter patterns. Most people move past the "processing a single letter at a time" stage of pattern recognition at a young age. Personally, I read whole multiple words or even short sentences at a time.

This has been known for a very long time.

Re:reading is a process of pattern recognition. (1)

matt me (850665) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542565)

>Reading is a process of pattern recognition.
What's the regex syntax like?

Ligatures (2, Insightful)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541393)

Typographers have used ligatures for ages. Now we have a scientific explanation.

That explains it! (4, Funny)

DeeVeeAnt (1002953) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541415)

It seems that technical documentation is often optimised to take advantage of this phenomenon. For instance, recent tests on IBM's Tivoli Access Manager docs caused my eyes to cross 130% of the time.

yo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20541457)

jest tu ktos z polski?? wpisujcie miasta

Fusing images (3, Insightful)

BorgDrone (64343) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541477)

A follow-up experiment with the eye-tracking equipment showed that we only see one clear image when reading because our brain fuses the different images from our eyes together.
No it doesn't.

There is no internal 'viewscreen' that the brain displays the images on. (a so called "cartesian theater" [wikipedia.org] ) after all, if that happens, who is watching the screen and how does that work ?

Instead of an internal 'framebuffer' I think* it's more like a MVC kind of system. Instead of pasting parts of images on an internal framebuffer to make up a whole, the individual parts are used to fill the datamodel of the world you've got inside your head. You 'see' the datamodel.

* - This is all just a bit of philosophizing on my side, I may be completely wrong.

Re:Fusing images (2, Interesting)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542249)

I'm glad you put quotes around 'see' there - it sums things up nicely. The datamodel we experience when reading contains lots of interlocking sensory cues. A simple concept, such as the word 'cow', may trigger a visual image of a cow, the sound of the spoken word cow, or for some rare people, even a smell cue. Sometimes a reader may become aware of a related sensory or logical image, i.e. first thinking of the sound of the word 'cow' may trigger the brain recalling the sound a cow makes and adding that to the mental 'picture'. And just as 'cow' can trigger 'moo', some readers may approach it from the opposite direction, activating the sound 'cow' after they have first added the sound 'moo' to their active model.
      It's very hard to put these sorts of brain actions into temporal order though. The brain may report that you thought of several related concepts in a particular order, but introspection often lies. Foe two examples that relate to this story, when you blink, the brain seems to distort your time sense so you are not aware of how long a blink really takes, and a blink 'feels' like there was zero time with the eyes fully closed, and if you look into a mirror, and shift your visual focus back and forth from one eye to the other, the brain edits out the movement, so normally, you are aware of looking into one eye, then the other, but you don't notice your gaze passing across the bridge of your nose in between. With deliberate practice, people can become aware of these 'self-editing' experiences, but most of us are routinely tricked by our own brains this way.
      One of the big tricks some high level martial arts teaches (but usually not until you are pretty damned far along), is that the strike that just hit the opponent (Poww!!) right in the left kidney, was launched exactly as their eyelids reached closed position, and they missed seeing the first 200/1,000'ths of a second of the blow coming. If they had trained enough, their response would have been automatic, directed by a part of the brain not subject to this editing, and that wouldn't have worked.

Visual framebuffer (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543047)

There is a framebuffer. It's called persistence of vision. I agree with you about everything else though. Some people do wait for each letter or pair to come into focus. Others pattern match entire concepts and associate based on that and move on without taking the time to bring all the symbols into focus. Trouble can happen when what you expected to see is not what is written but the process is adaptive and you slow down on new ideas and clever turns of phrase. Interestingly the latter method is better for recall because the nature of memory in the time domain gives disadvantage to ideas spooled in slowly rather than swallowed whole.

Dyslexia (2, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541683)

The article only touches on this (last word in the entire story), but this should have ramifications in studying and treating dyslexia. At first glance, it would seem very strange how people could suffer from dyslexia. Why would they perceive pairs of letters and numbers as flipped, if we read in a serial fashion? If both eyes aren't even looking at the same letter then the physiology begins to make more sense - somewhere along the way the information isn't being assembled in the proper order.

Dan East

Re:Dyslexia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20542139)

This is pertinent to visual dyslexia rather than normal dyslexia.
Normal dyslexics see the words correctly, but mentally sub order their components incorrectly. It also affects speech and cognition.
Visual dyslexics don't have speech or cognition problems, but actually see the words jumbled on the page.
Some people suffer from both!
There are coloured glasses available for visual dyslexics that can help by filtering out most wavelengths of light except for a narrow band. Also some helps normal dyslexics. No one is quite sure why they work.

Re:Dyslexia (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542745)

At first glance, it would seem very strange how people could suffer from dyslexia ...

You've reminded me of a law firm where I once worked. It was one of those international prestigious, original-art-on-the-walls kind of places. One of the regular receptionists, it turns out, suffered from dyslexia. Not a quality one would want in someone whose job it is to take and give out names and numbers. To make things worse, she was a native or Rochester, New York. The sound of her accent was something like you'd get if you fed a sendmail.cf file to speech recognition software. Sweet girl, and kind of pretty, but still.

There's a point to this story, but I forget what it is.

For what kind of "reading" ? (1)

Silentknyght (1042778) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541695)

TFA mentions that it's 14pt font at a meter away, so I'd imagine there's a decent bit of concentration going on, but that aside, what kind of "reading" are they doing?

I can read Harry Potter simply through identifiation of the word shapes; I don't have to recognize each letter because I (i.e. my brain) has a reasonable expectation of the subject matter and the sentence structure. In other words, there is some top-down interpretation--it's not all what I see, it's what my brain thinks I'm seeing.

The same is not true when reading Kant's metaphysics of morals. Translated into English from German (iirc), with a difficult sentence structure and challenging subject matter, I have to read every word carefully. This is not skimming.

Huh? (1)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541773)

Can you type a little more slowly? I'm having trouble keeping up ...

No. NO. (3, Informative)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 6 years ago | (#20541801)

OK, I'm hoping the real article is not nearly as silly as this blurb. I'm sure it talks about this situation in more reasonable terms. But the blurb focuses on eye position and implies that it has meaning on a letter level.

While the issue of eye position is interesting, we are NOT focusing on a letter. We are not reading letters, much less looking at them.

Hold you arm out. Raise your thumb. Look at it. The space of the back of your thumb, at that distance is special. That's your fovea -- the area of your eye which has the greatest acuity. When you read, depending on font size and text distance, that area covers multiple lines of text, and usually more than one word. Focusing on a letter means picking that letter as a point in the text, and seeing the areas around it.

A strong reader is picking up both the words below and left and right of the word he/she is reading at that fraction of a second.

Yes, it's interesting to ask where we fixate. Yes, it's VERY interesting that we go crosseyed and that begs the question of whether we do it systematically to reduce the amount of new data which is common in both foveas, either to increase speed by processing both independently, or to reduce the amount in common and thus reduce the load that reading takes (you'd possibly see that in a "difficult" or unfamiliar word). However, we do NOT look at letters. They're just a spot.

Someone asked here about other languages, do we do the same thing for Kanji, Hangul, etc.? Is suspect that things might be different there, as I suspect that this behavior that they've found is strongly connected with syllable boundaries in English. However, eye-trackers are notoriously inaccurate (unless you're willing to have a coil surgically implanted in your eye, and even then, it ain't fantastic) and so their letter accuracy information must come from AVERAGES ACROSS MULTIPLE OBSERVATIONS. This should lead us to ask what their dataset was and what behavior they saw on specific character clusters. (That, in turn leads us to question if they got enough data to get much accuracy on those clusters.)

It would be nice to see the original article, as opposed to this fluff piece.

Re:No. NO. (1)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542757)

It's probably more likely that our eyes just are not able to accurately position on a page of text. The brain tells both eyes to 'look at' the same exact place, but due to variations in muscle response and delays getting the command sent to the eye they end up at slightly different places.

You could probably reduce this error though by putting features on the page of text that let the eye track better than vast areas of white. For instance if the same shape and size text was engraved in natural wood the eye would probably be a lot more accurate in positioning to a specific letter.

I doubt this is any more a strategy for reading than it is just a fact of life.

U.S. Patent No. ? (1)

dkh2 (29130) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542615)

Who owns the patent on this method and, will we all be expected to pay licensing fees?

I only have one good eye... (1)

gmletzkojr (768460) | more than 6 years ago | (#20542815)

you insensitive clods!!

Worst RTFA ever (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#20543141)

Before we get yet another "I always knew I didn't look at one letter at a time! I read whole words at a time! hyuk hyuk", please go read the first two paragraphs of the damn article. Or, for that matter, the summary right here on Slashdot. I don't think I have yet seen even one response I didn't write that understood they were talking about the reader's eyes looking at two different things at the same time.

give these guys a break... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20543189)

Not every one can come up with ground breaking research all the time. Sometimes when your department head or advisor is pressuring you for some results after your last two papers came up with negative results you need to just come up with something that you know is guaranteed to come up with positive results (no matter how obvious) to justify your existance. People have mouths to feed, and the economy has to keep going forward. Not to mention people have to graduate to make room for more slave^H^H^H^H^Hhard working graduate students, and researchers have to find a way to spend all of that research money so they can get some more... /sarcasm_off
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