On average our eyes make 3-5 saccadic movements per second when we read, although their neural mechanism is still unclear. It is generally thought that saccades help redirect the retinal fovea to specific characters and words but that actual discrimination of information only occurs during periods of fixation. Indeed, it has been proposed that there is active and selective suppression of information processing during saccades to avoid experience of blurring due to the high-speed movement. Here, using a paradigm where a string of either lexical (Chinese) or non-lexical (alphabetic) characters are triggered by saccadic eye movements, we show that subjects can discriminate both while making saccadic eye movement. Moreover, discrimination accuracy is significantly better for characters scanned during the saccadic movement to a fixation point than those not scanned beyond it. Our results showed that character information can be processed during the saccade, therefore saccades during reading not only function to redirect the fovea to fixate the next character or word but allow pre-processing of information from the ones adjacent to the fixation locations to help target the next most salient one. In this way saccades can not only promote continuity in reading words but also actively facilitate reading comprehension. © 2012 Zhang et al.
Zhang, H., Yan, H. M., Kendrick, K. M., & Li, C. Y. (2012). Both Lexical and Non-Lexical Characters Are Processed during Saccadic Eye Movements. PLoS ONE, 7(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046383