Reading Eyes Videos, 2016,  Rebecca Johnson,  Digital video file 

Because they generate expectations that help us sift, sort, and organize external stimuli, patterns provide the templates through which we perceive the world. Pattern allows us to define the boundary between the expected and the unexpected, the congruous and the incongruous. For example, native speakers of a language use recognizable structures to create expectations that help them process linguistic stimuli. They expect to find a noun only in sentence structures where nouns are grammatically acceptable. They can also determine which phonemes, or distinct units of sound, are more probable within a given context. Native speakers will respond to the lure of an actual word even in less than ideal conditions. The expectations that linguistic patterns create thus allow us to manage the barrage of sound we encounter in a complex environment. We do not have to “hear” every sound we hear, because linguistic patterns “hear” for us. The same is true for reading — our eyes do not move smoothly across the page. They jump from place to place, pausing to consider certain features of the text before they dance on in search of meaning. The two concurrent videos on display show readers of different abilities engaging with a text on a Tobii Eye Tracker – the device next to the videos in the gallery. The top monitor tracks the reader’s eyes as they move across the screen. The bottom monitor shows exactly where in the text the eyes are fixating and for how long. The five readers featured include a pre-reader, an early reader, a developing reader, an adult or mature reader, and a stroke patient.

Grace Burton & Rebecca Johnson

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