Adrian Staub and Lisa Sanders awarded NSF grant, exploring lexical predictability in reading

Adrian Staub (PI) and Lisa Sanders (Co-PI) have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation, Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, entitled, "Effects of lexical predictability on parafoveal and foveal processing in reading." It is awarded from 7/1/17-6/30/20, with total costs $457,845.

Reading is an essential skill in modern society. Developing effective methods for teaching reading, and effective interventions for reading difficulties and disabilities, requires an understanding of the cognitive processes involved in fluent reading. Recent research has suggested that skilled reading may be aided by our ability to predict upcoming words. Readers use their knowledge of their language and the world to anticipate or predict the words that they are likely to encounter; words that are correctly predicted are more easily recognized. 

The present research investigates this phenomenon in detail, comparing data from two state-of-the-art methods: 1) tracking of readers' eye movements and 2) recording of Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), which reflect the brain’s activity in response to individual words. Both methods show reliable changes in response to a word's predictability. A paradox that motivates the present research is that eye movements reflect a word's predictability only when the word can be pre-processed in peripheral vision, before it is directly inspected. In contrast, ERPs reflect a word's predictability even without such pre-processing. By achieving a better understanding of what these two methods are telling us, and the source of the differential effects, the investigators hope to further our knowledge of the ways in which making unconscious predictions about upcoming words can benefit readers.

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