Dissociating parafoveal preview benefit and parafovea-on-fovea effects during reading: A combined eye tracking and EEG study

Florian Niefind & Olaf Dimigen


During reading, the parafoveal processing of an upcoming word n+1 can influence word recognition in two ways: It can affect fixation behavior during the preceding fixation on word n (parafovea-on-fovea effect, POF), and it can facilitate subsequent foveal processing once word n+1 is fixated (preview benefit). While preview benefits are established, evidence for POF effects is mixed. It has been suggested that POF effects exist, but have a delayed impact on saccade planning and thus coincide with the preview benefit measured on word n+1. We combined eye movement and EEG recordings to investigate and separate the neural correlates of POF and preview benefit effects. Participants read lists of nouns either in a boundary paradigm or the RSVP-with-flankers paradigm, while we recorded fixation- or event-related potentials (FRPs and ERPs), respectively. The validity and lexical frequency of the word shown as preview for the upcoming word n+1 were orthogonally manipulated. Analyses focused on the first fixation on word n+1. Preview validity (correct vs. incorrect preview) strongly modulated fixation times and electrophysiological N1 amplitudes, replicating previous findings. Importantly, gaze durations and FRPs measured on word n+1 were also affected by the frequency of the preview word, with low-frequency previews eliciting a sustained, N400-like centroparietal negativity. Results support the idea that POF effects exist but affect word recognition with a delay. Lastly, once word n+1 was directly fixated, its frequency modulated N1 amplitudes in ERPs and FRPs. Taken together, we separated immediate and delayed effects of parafoveal processing on brain correlates of word recognition.

Keywords: EEG, eye tracking, eye-fixation related potentials, parafovea-on-fovea effect, preview benefit, boundary technique

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