Two experiments are presented that examine how the visual characteristics of Japanese words influence eye movement behaviour during reading. In Experiment 1, reading behaviour was compared for words comprising either one or two kanji characters. The one-character words were significantly less likely to be fixated on first-pass, and had significantly longer overall reading times, than the two-character words. In Experiment 2, reading behaviour was compared for two-kanji character words, for which the first character was either visually simple or visually complex (determined by the number of strokes). Visual complexity significantly influenced total word reading times and the probability of the individual visually simple/complex characters being fixated on first pass. Additional analyses showed no preferred viewing position for two-kanji character words. Overall, the study provides experimental evidence of an influence of specific visual characteristics of Japanese words on eye movement behaviour during reading, as shown by both fixation probabilities and reading times. The findings must be explained by processing at (or beyond) a visual level impacting on eye movement behavior during reading of Japanese text.

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Keywords Eye movements, Japanese, Reading, Visual complexity, Word length
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Journal Reading and Writing
White, S.J. (Sarah J.), Hirotani, M, & Liversedge, S.P. (Simon P.). (2012). Eye movement behaviour during reading of Japanese sentences: Effects of word length and visual complexity. Reading and Writing, 25(5), 981–1006. doi:10.1007/s11145-010-9289-0