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Reading is disrupted by intelligible background speech: evidence from eye-tracking.

Vasilev, M. R., Liversedge, S.P., Rowan, D., Kirkby, J. A. and Angele, B., 2019. Reading is disrupted by intelligible background speech: evidence from eye-tracking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 45 (11), 1484-1512.

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DOI: 10.1037/xhp0000680


It is not well understood whether background speech affects the initial processing of words during reading or only the later processes of sentence integration. Additionally, it is not clear how eye-movements support text comprehension in the face of distraction by background speech and noise. In the present research, participants read single sentences (Experiment 1) and short paragraphs (Experiments 2-3) in four sound conditions: silence, speech-spectrum Gaussian noise, English speech (intelligible to participants), and Mandarin speech (unintelligible to participants). Intelligible speech did not affect the lexical access of words and had a limited effect on the first-pass fixations of words. However, it led to more regressions and more re-reading fixations compared to both unintelligible speech and silence. The results suggested that the distraction is mostly semantic in nature, and there was only limited evidence for a contribution of phonology. Finally, intelligible speech disrupted comprehension only when participants were prevented from re-reading previous words. These findings suggest that the semantic properties of irrelevant speech can disrupt the ongoing reading process, but that this disruption occurs in the post-lexical stages of reading when participants need to integrate words to form the sentence context and to construct a coherent discourse of the text.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:reading ; eye-movements ; auditory distraction ; background speech ; noise
Group:Faculty of Science & Technology
ID Code:32389
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:13 Jun 2019 15:06
Last Modified:14 Mar 2022 14:16


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