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Faith L Florer, Teresa L Thompson, Christine V Jadeja; What type of practice improves reading rates for nonstandard letter spacing: visual or text?. Journal of Vision 2003;3(9):808. doi: 10.1167/3.9.808.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
To examine the processes underlying the ability of graphic designers to read nonstandard letter spacing more quickly than normal readers (Hunter-Kahn & Florer, ARVO, 2000), we studied reading rates of four groups of readers — artists (people employed at least three years primarily manipulating visual images as art); copyeditors (people employed at least three years primarily through manipulating text); dyslexic artists; and dyslexic (non-artist) readers. The spaces between letters varied from 0.5–12 M spaces. Print size was 1 deg. We found that copyeditors read most nonstandard letter spacing faster than all other groups: The critical letter spacing (the point at which reading rates fell using a two-limbed fit) was greater for copyeditors (3.25 M) than for graphic designers (1.8M), and more than three times the critical spacing of artists (1M) and dyslexic and normal readers (1M). When letter spacing was 3.25 M, copyeditors' mean reading rate (154WPM) was significantly faster than normal readers (88WPM), t = 5.87, p < .05, and graphic designers (107WPM), t = 3.31, p < .05. In fact, the copyeditors read widely spaced text (3.25M) faster than normal readers read normally spaced text (148WPM). When letter spacing was wider than 3.25M, mean reading rate of copyeditors (39WPM) was no faster than normal readers (34WPM), and slower than graphic designers (mean of 80 WPM). The lowest reading rates for all groups were obtained at letter spacing of 12M, by artists (mean reading rate = 11WPM), and coincided with their verbal interest in the visual aspect of the text. The results, in sum, suggest that the ability to read wide spaced text is based on familiarity with words and letters, not in visual engagement with images. The verbal reports of the fastest-reading group (copyeditors) dismissed spacing as unimportant to their reading rate because they ‘don't need to read,’ but instead infer words' based on few letters, experience, and context.
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