Linguistic focus and memory: an eye movement study

Peter Ward, Patrick Sturt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

We report an eyetracking study investigating the effects of linguistic focus on eye movements and memory during two readings of a text. Across two presentations of the text, a critical word either changed to a semantically related word or remained unchanged. Focus on the critical word was manipulated using context. Eye movements were monitored during reading, and there was a secondary task of detecting the word change. Results indicated that when a word changed, participants were more successful at detecting it when it was in focus. In the second display, there were more fixations and longer viewing times on a changed than on an unchanged word, but only when the critical word was in focus; eye movement data for changed and unchanged words did not differ when the word was not in focus. We suggest that linguistic focus leads to more detailed lexical semantic representations but not more effortful initial encoding of information.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-86
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Eye Movements
  • Humans
  • Linguistics
  • Memory
  • Vocabulary


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