Using eye tracking to examine a single word copying paradigm
Authors: Laishley, A.
Classroom learning, the bedrock of school education, relies heavily on written information transfer. The seemingly simple task of copying text from a board is psychologically complex and involves sequential visual and cognitive processes: visual encoding, constructing and maintaining mental representations, and written production. To date, most research in this area has focused on written production. This Thesis aimed to quantify what linguistic units copiers activated during visual encoding; whether similar units were used during encoding and production; and whether copiers whose reading ability was still developing, encoded and produced words in a similar fashion to copiers with fully developed reading ability.
New mobile eyetracking technology enabled recording of eye-movement behaviour as an indicator of cognitive processing over both visual encoding and written production. In two experiments, both adults’ and children’s eye-movements were recorded as they made handwritten copies of single words presented on a classroom board.
Gaze time measures showed both adults and children encoded whole word and syllable units, though this was not consistent for children processing long words. For all copiers, written production was often based on comparatively smaller units than encoding. Also, children needed more gaze lifts between the written copy and the board than adults, suggesting they relied more on piecemeal linguistic representations of subword units, perhaps because of forgetting.
An additional lexical decision experiment showed how children could encode long words as whole word units, suggesting that piecemeal encoding of subword units might be restricted to a copying task, that includes additional task demands associated with mental representation and written production processes as well as visual encoding.
Word copying relied on systematic linguistic units, but the size of a unit appeared to modulate its functionality differently for encoding and production, even for skilled readers. Findings guided development of a theoretical framework for the copying process.