The visual span refers to the number of adjacent characters that can be recognized in a single glance. It is viewed as a sensory bottleneck in reading for both normal and clinical populations. In peripheral vision, the visual span for English characters can be enlarged after training with a letter-recognition task. Here, we examined the transfer of training from Korean to English characters for a group of bilingual Korean native speakers. In the pre- and posttests, we measured visual spans for Korean characters and English letters. Training (1.5 hours × 4 days) consisted of repetitive visual-span measurements for Korean trigrams (strings of three characters). Our training enlarged the visual spans for Korean single characters and trigrams, and the benefit transferred to untrained English symbols. The improvement was largely due to a reduction of within-character and between-character crowding in Korean recognition, as well as betweenletter crowding in English recognition. We also found a negative correlation between the size of the visual span and the average pattern complexity of the symbol set. Together, our results showed that the visual span is limited by common sensory (crowding) and physical (pattern complexity) factors regardless of the language script, providing evidence that the visual span reflects a universal bottleneck for text recognition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors would like to thank Charles Bigelow for valuable information regarding font metrics, Jihyang Jun for her help in recruiting subjects, and Seoyoung Park for her help with data collection. This study was supported by National Institutes of Health Grant EY002934.
- Pattern complexity
- Pattern recognition
- Visual span