Matthew, S. 1 , Jenny, T. 2 , Gerhard, S. 1 , Marc, P. 3 , Chen, C. 1, 2 & Heffner-Wong, A. 1
1 Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
2 Harvard Graduate School of Education
3 University of Massachusetts, Boston
Digital devices have spurred an extraordinary evolution in the social conventions for reading. People with dyslexia remark that reading on handheld e-readers is easier than traditional methods, and previous studies (Schneps, OKeeffe, Heffner-Wong, & Sonnert, 2010) suggested that short linewidths used in these devices may facilitate reading in dyslexia by reducing demands on visual attention, impaired in dyslexia (Franceschini, Gori, Ruffino, Pedrolli, & Facoetti, 2011). Here, we describe new research that shows that when handheld mobile devices capable of displaying text (e.g., smartphones) are configured to display only a few words in a line, reading rates are increased 27%, and regressive gaze shifts are cut in half. In addition, we find that increasing inter-letter spacing to reduce crowding (Zorzi et al., 2012) helped those most impaired. We interpret these observations in terms of a model for reading in dyslexia. Here, we suggest that attention processes that ordinarily inhibit perception of text previously read are impaired in dyslexia (e.g., inverse pseudo-neglect; Michel, Bidot, Bonnetblanc, & Quercia, 2011)). We suggest regressive saccades arise when gaze shifts abruptly alter the percept of crowding in the parafoveal span previously read, ordinarily inhibited by attention in strong readers. Short lines mitigate this effect by reducing the occurrence of text to the left of fixation.