Solving the chicken-and-egg problem of letter detection and fixation duration in reading
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When asked to detect target letters while reading a text, participants miss more letters in frequent function words than in less frequent content words. According to the truncation assumption that characterizes most models of this effect, misses occur when word-processing time is shorter than letter-processing time. Fixation durations for detections and omissions were compared with fixation durations from a baseline condition when participants were searching for a target letter embedded in different words. Although, as predicted by truncation, fixation durations were longer for detections than for omissions, fixation durations for detections were also longer than those for the same words in the baseline condition, demonstrating that longer fixation durations when targets are detected are more likely to be due to demands associated with producing a detection response than to truncation. Also, contrary to predictions from the truncation assumption, the standard deviation of fixation durations for detections was larger than that from the baseline condition.
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