September 2019
Volume 19, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2019
Implicit reading direction and limited-capacity letter identification
Author Affiliations
  • Alex Holcombe
    University of Sydney
  • Kim Ransley
    University of Sydney
Journal of Vision September 2019, Vol.19, 4b. doi:
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      Alex Holcombe, Kim Ransley; Implicit reading direction and limited-capacity letter identification. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):4b.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Reading this sentence was quite an accomplishment. You overcame a poor ability, possibly even a complete inability, to simultaneously identify multiple objects - according to the influential “EZ reader” model of reading, humans can identify only one word at a time. In the field of visual attention, it is known that if one must identify multiple simultaneously-presented stimuli, spatial biases may be present but are often small. Reading a sentence, by contrast, involves a highly stereotyped attentional routine with rapid but serial, or nearly serial, identification of stimuli from left to right. Unexpectedly, my lab has found evidence that this reading routine is elicited when just two widely-spaced letters are briefly presented and observers are asked to identify both letters. We find a large left-side performance advantage that is absent or reversed when the two letters are rotated to face to the left instead of to the right. Additional findings from RSVP (rapid serial visual presentation) lead us to suggest that both letters are selected by attention simultaneously, with the bottleneck at which one letter is prioritized sitting at a late stage of processing - identification or working memory consolidation. Thus, a rather minimal cue of letter orientation elicits a strong reading direction-based prioritization routine, which will allow better understanding of both the bottleneck in visual identification and how reading overcomes it.


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