Parafoveal Processing

When fixating on a word during reading, information is ascertained about the word in both the fovea (point of highest visual acuity) and the parafovea (words surrounding the focal point; Schotter et al., 2012). Importantly, parafoveal processing aids preprocessing of upcoming information, which can facilitate eye movements to upcoming words (Plummer et al., 2012). We can test parafoveal processing using the gaze-contingent boundary paradigm, which involves masking a critical region of interest and embedding an invisible boundary prior to that region; when the reader makes a saccade across the invisible boundary, the masked region is unmasked.  

Using this paradigm, evidence for parafoveal processing has been found in the form of the parafoveal N+1 preview effect. An N+1 preview effect occurs when there are measureable reading differences on a target word (N+1) when that word is available in the parafoveal view of N (the word prior to the critical word) compared to when it is blocked in the parafoveal view of N. Traditionally this type of effect has been referred to as a preview benefit but, in line with Vasilev and Angele (2017), we refer to it as the N+1 preview effect.

In a series of studies, we investigate whether L2 speakers of English are able to extract information from words in the parafovea. If so, we ask what type of information is useful: orthographic, sublexical, or lexical? Additionally, we are interested in the impact of uninformative masks on reading times for both L1 and L2 speakers. Very little research has investigated parafoveal processing in L2 speakers, and we expect that this research will help shed light on the mechanisms of both L1 and L2 sentence processing.

Representative publications
Fernandez, L.B., Allen, S.E.M., & Scheepers, C. (2018). Are all invalid parafoveal previews created equal? Poster at 24th Conference on the Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP), Berlin, Germany.
Fernandez, L.B. & Allen, S.E.M. (2018). L2 parafoveal processing (or lack thereof). Poster at 2nd International Symposium on Bilingual Processing in Adults and Children (ISBPAC), Braunschweig, Germany.
Fernandez, L.B., Pire, N., & Allen, S.E.M. (2017). Parafoveal processing in L2 speakers of English. Conference on Multilingualism (COM), Groningen, Netherlands.
Fernandez, L.B., Pire, N., & Allen, S.E.M. (2017). The use of parafoveally-viewed expectation and frequency information by L2 speakers of English. Poster at 23rd Conference on the Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing (AMLaP), Lancaster, UK.