An experimental eye-tracking study of text adaptation for readers with dyslexia: effects of visual support and word frequency


Easy-to-read guidelines recommend visual support and lexical simplification to facilitate text processing, but few empirical studies confirm a positive effect from these recommendations in individuals with dyslexia. This study examined the influence of the visual support and lexical simplification on sentence processing through eye movements at both the text- and word-level, and the differences between readers with and without dyslexia. Furthermore, we explored the influence of reading experience and vocabulary, as control variables. We tested 20 young adults with dyslexia and 20 chronological age-matched controls. Participants read 60 sentences in total. Half the sentences contained an image and the other half did not, and half contained a low-frequency word and half a high-frequency word. Results showed that visual support and lexical simplification facilitated sentence processing, potentially by jointly facilitating lexical semantic access. We also found that participants with lower print exposure and lower vocabulary benefited more from word-level lexical simplification. We conclude that both adaptations could benefit readers with low print exposure and smaller vocabularies, and therefore, to many dyslexic readers who show these characteristics.

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    The effect sizes of the main effect of group on the text-level reading time measures were approximately .25 (i.e. diagnostic status accounted for about one-quarter of the variance in reading times). The mean group difference in text (total) reading time was approximately one and a half seconds, which translates to about 25% longer. Thus, it took dyslexic participants 25% more processing time to achieve equal comprehension accuracy. Increased re-reading is commonly regarded as the most frequent reading strategy employed by individuals with dyslexia (Simmons & Singelton, 2000).


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This research was supported by the V Plan Propio de Investigación y Transferencia of the University of Seville (PPI2016-IV.5) and the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation Grant PGC2018-096094-B-I00. The work of M. R. C. is supported by a research grant from the University of Seville (PP2018-10696).

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Correspondence to Miriam Rivero-Contreras.

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Rivero-Contreras, M., Engelhardt, P.E. & Saldaña, D. An experimental eye-tracking study of text adaptation for readers with dyslexia: effects of visual support and word frequency. Ann. of Dyslexia (2021).

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  • Dyslexia
  • Eye movements
  • Lexical simplification
  • Sentence processing
  • Visual support