Alhama, R. G., Siegelman, N., Frost, R., & Armstrong, B. C. (2019).  The role of information in visual word recognition: A perceptually-constrained connectionist account.  Proceedings of the 41st Annual Conference of the cognitive Science Society.  Mahwah, NH: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.  


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Proficient  readers  typically  fixate  near  the  center  of  a  word, with  a  slight  bias  towards  word  onset.   We  explore  a  novel account of this phenomenon based on combining information- theory with perceptual constraints in a connectionist model of visual word recognition.  This account posits that the amount of information-content available for word identification varies across fixation locations and across languages.  These differences contribute to the overall fixation location bias in different  languages,  make  the  novel  prediction  that  certain  words are more readily identified when fixating at an atypical fixation location, and predict specific cross-linguistic differences. We tested these predictions across several simulations in English and Hebrew, and in a behavioral experiment. The results confirmed  that  the  bias  to  fixate  closer  to  word  onset  aligns with reducing uncertainty in the visual signal, that some words are more readily identified at atypical fixation locations, and that these effects vary across languages.

Keywords: visual  word  recognition; computational  modelling; connectionism; information theory; fixation location

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