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Katharine Tillman, Denis Pelli; Reading pictures. Journal of Vision 2009;9(8):803. doi: 10.1167/9.8.803.
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© 2015 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Identifying an object requires matching it with a name stored in memory, much like looking up a word in a dictionary. We have previously shown that reading can be modeled surprisingly well as serial object recognition, where each word is an object (Pelli & Tillman, 2007). If words are identified like objects, are objects read like words? Here, we create hybrid word-picture narratives, where nouns are replaced by drawings of basic-level objects. We printed these stories on paper and asked subjects to read them silently as fast as they could without skipping any words. We find that, relative to unmodified (all-word) narratives, readers suffer no loss in comprehension when reading these hybrid stories. Most subjects read the hybrid stories slightly more slowly than all-word texts (15% slower on average). Additional tests compared word-only, picture-only, and hybrid sets of the same nouns in random order. Though words were read faster, there was no additional speed loss associated with switching back and forth from words to pictures. This suggests that reading and object recognition are not fundamentally different tasks. Thus, we can read pictures, and reading and object recognition really aren't so different after all.
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