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Proceedings Paper

Text density, eye movements, and reading
Author(s): Aries R. Arditi; Kenneth Knoblauch; Ilana Grunwald
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Paper Abstract

Variable width (often called proportionally-spaced) fonts pack more characters, and hence more information, into a line of text than do fixed width fonts. They are thus preferred by typographers, who use them as a means of fitting more text on fewer pages. Does this higher density result in faster or slower reading speeds? We compared maximum reading speeds on a CRT using identical characters under three conditions of pitch: 1) fixed width (FW), each character centered in a constant horizontal space, 2) variable width (VW), characters occupying only the space required to eliminate overlap, and 3) modified variable width (MVW), average text density equated to that of the FW condition through the addition of inter-word microspace. For small characters (close to the acuity limit), FW produced the fastest reading, with MVW yielding better performance than VW pitch, indicating two kinds of "crowding" effects: one interfering with individual character recognition and one interfering with word recognition. For medium and large characters (-0.25 to 6 deg height), performance was best with VW pitch, slowest with MVW pitch, and intermediate with FW pitch. Hence dense text packing may improve performance with all but the smallest characters. Control experiments using rapid serial visual presentation of text show that the higher text density and lower eye movement requirements of VW text are responsible for its superiority at medium and large character sizes.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 October 1990
PDF: 7 pages
Proc. SPIE 1249, Human Vision and Electronic Imaging: Models, Methods, and Applications, (1 October 1990); doi: 10.1117/12.19659
Show Author Affiliations
Aries R. Arditi, The Lighthouse, Inc. (United States)
Kenneth Knoblauch, The Lighthouse, Inc. (United States)
Ilana Grunwald, The Lighthouse, Inc. (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 1249:
Human Vision and Electronic Imaging: Models, Methods, and Applications
Bernice E. Rogowitz; Jan P. Allebach, Editor(s)

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