How We Process Text When Reading
Can We Read Color as Easily as Text?
The current work that has been done on reading uses advanced real time eye tracking techniques in conjunctions with computers. Readers have been asked to read passages on a computer screen and based on where the reader eyes are focused, the computer fills in the “upcoming” words. By limiting the amount of anticipated information in the sentence (text that is not being focused on directly but is in the periphery of the central focus) different reading speeds have been observed.
The results of these studies show, that when we read we tend to jump (leap frog) from one group of words in a sentence to another and then decipher the letters that we are focused on as well as the letters/words that surround this area. The distance that we can jump is dependent on the complexity and length of the word we are reading/anticipating (the greater the familiarity of the word the more likely we will jump over it) as well as the difficulty of the passage we are reading.
Researchers would have the computer fill in the anticipated words with a series of unknown characters until the readers eyes jumped to that section of the sentence. These characters would vary from a standard set of “xxx’s” with the spaces remaining between these characters where they were supposed to occur in the sentence, or as series of incorrect letters that matched the shape of the letters they would replace. The researchers noticed very little differences when varying these replacement characters.
3 letters An experimxxx xxx xxxxxxxxx xx 207 wpm
9 letters An experiment wax xxxxxxxxx xx 308 wpm
15 letters An experiment was condxxxxx xx 340 wpm
This research disputes the earlier notions about the reader relying on the word shapes (via ligatures in g, t, e as well as spacing between letters known as “kerning”). This assumption was thought to be the case because of the slower reading speeds experimentally observed when readers were asked to read fonts with “ALL CAPS” or “AlTeRnAtInG CaPs AnD LoWer CaSe FoNtS”. The new data suggests that this “slowness” could be attributed to the lack of familiarity with the word shapes of capital letters.
The research on reading is important if one is expected to be able to read color text as easily as traditional black and white text. As the color fonts that I have developed have no set shape or ligatures that can differentiate one letter from another, one must rely solely on the familiarity of the color in conduction with peripheral vision to anticipate the words in a sentence. Given that enough light is available in the environment when reading works printed in color text, the research presented above points at the possibility that reading might take place (with practice) at natural pace.
references used above at:
Larson, Kevin ” The Science of Word Recognition or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bouma” Advanced Reading Technology, Microsoft Corporation