Reading during the composition of multi-sentence texts: an eye-movement study

Mark Torrance, Roger Johansson, Victoria Johansson, Åsa Wengelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Writers composing multi-sentence texts have immediate access to a visual representation of what they have written. Little is known about the detail of writers’ eye movements within this text during production. We describe two experiments in which competent adult writ- ers’ eye movements were tracked while performing short expository writing tasks. These are contrasted with condi- tions in which participants read and evaluated researcher- provided texts. Writers spent a mean of around 13 % of their time looking back into their text. Initiation of these look-back sequences was strongly predicted by linguisti- cally important boundaries in their ongoing production (e.g., writers were much more likely to look back imme- diately prior to starting a new sentence). 36 % of look-back sequences were associated with sustained reading and the remainder with less patterned forward and backward sac- cades between words (‘‘hopping’’). Fixation and gaze durations and the presence of word-length effects sug- gested lexical processing of fixated words in both reading and hopping sequences. Word frequency effects were not present when writers read their own text. Findings demonstrate the technical possibility and potential value of examining writers’ fixations within their just-written text. 

We suggest that these fixations do not serve solely, or even primarily, in monitoring for error, but play an important role in planning ongoing production. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-743
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2016-Sep
Externally publishedYes

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Applied Psychology (50102)


  • Writing
  • eye tracking
  • reading during writing
  • text composition


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