Can colours be used to segment words when reading?

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Acta psychologica, ISSN: 1873-6297, Vol: 159, Page: 8-13

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Perea, Manuel; Tejero, Pilar; Winskel, Heather
Elsevier BV
Psychology; Arts and Humanities; Visual word-recognition; Word-frequency; Reading; Eye movements; Medicine and Health Sciences
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Rayner, Fischer, and Pollatsek (1998, Vision Research) demonstrated that reading unspaced text in Indo-European languages produces a substantial reading cost in word identification (as deduced from an increased word-frequency effect on target words embedded in the unspaced vs. spaced sentences) and in eye movement guidance (as deduced from landing sites closer to the beginning of the words in unspaced sentences). However, the addition of spaces between words comes with a cost: nearby words may fall outside high-acuity central vision, thus reducing the potential benefits of parafoveal processing. In the present experiment, we introduced a salient visual cue intended to facilitate the process of word segmentation without compromising visual acuity: each alternating word was printed in a different colour (i.e., ). Results only revealed a small reading cost of unspaced alternating colour sentences relative to the spaced sentences. Thus, present data are a demonstration that colour can be useful to segment words for readers of spaced orthographies.