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Subtle Increases in Interletter Spacing Facilitate the Encoding of Words during Normal Reading
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Author: Manuel Perea et al.

by Manuel Perea, Pablo Gomez

Background

Several recent studies have revealed that words presented with a small increase in interletter spacing are identified faster than words presented with the default interletter spacing (i.e., w a t e r faster than water). Modeling work has shown that this advantage occurs at an early encoding level. Given the implications of this finding for the ease of reading in the new digital era, here we examined whether the beneficial effect of small increases in interletter spacing can be generalized to a normal reading situation.

Methodology

We conducted an experiment in which the participant’s eyes were monitored when reading sentences varying in interletter spacing: i) sentences were presented with the default (0.0) interletter spacing; ii) sentences presented with a +1.0 interletter spacing; and iii) sentences presented with a +1.5 interletter spacing.

Principal Findings

Results showed shorter fixation duration times as an inverse function of interletter spacing (i.e., fixation durations were briefest with +1.5 spacing and slowest with the default spacing).

Conclusions

Subtle increases in interletter spacing facilitate the encoding of the fixated word during normal reading. Thus, interletter spacing is a parameter that may affect the ease of reading, and it could be adjustable in future implementations of e-book readers.

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