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Several studies have examined age differences in eye movement behavior during normal reading, but have not determined the causes of these differences. Therefore, the current experiment investigated two possible causes of age differences in eye movement behavior during reading: visual deficits leading to a reduced visual or perceptual span, and differences in the use of predictability information. Older adults have a smaller functional field of view than younger adults; thus they may also have a reduced perceptual span during reading and show a reduced parafoveal preview effect. However, lexical access and ability to use predictability information is preserved in older adults; thus, they may use predictability information to compensate for a reduced perceptual span. Our design crossed parafoveal preview (boundary change vs. no boundary change) and predictability (high vs. low predictability) in a sample of younger and older adults. The results documented a reduced preview effect in older adults compared to younger adults. Additionally, older adults derived greater benefit from predictability information than did younger adults. However, both older and younger adults had an increased preview effect when target word predictability increased. Thus, this study points to two likely causes of age differences in eye movement behavior during reading. First, older adults' visual deficits reduce the size of the visual or perceptual span. Second, older adults' working memory deficits lead to difficulty in integrating new information into the representation of sentence meaning. Nevertheless, older adults are able to use predictability information to compensate for a reduced perceptual span and for working memory deficits. These findings highlight the importance of increasing text size and contrast and providing context in reading materials designed for older adults.
A Thesis Submitted to the Department of Psychology in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Natalie SachsEricsson, Professor Directing Thesis; Ralph Radach, Committee Member; Neil Charness, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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