Character-complexity effects in Chinese reading and visual search

a comparison and theoretical implications

Lili Yu*, Qiaoming Zhang, Caspian Priest, Erik D. Reichle, Heather Sheridan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


Three eye-movement experiments were conducted to examine how the complexity of characters in Chinese words (i.e., number of strokes per character) influences their processing and eye-movement behaviour. In Experiment 1, English speakers with no significant knowledge of Chinese searched for specific low-, medium-, and high-complexity target characters in a multi-page narrative containing characters of varying complexity (3–16 strokes). Fixation durations and skipping rates were influenced by the visual complexity of both the target characters and the characters being searched even though participants had no knowledge of Chinese. In Experiment 2, native Chinese speakers performed the same character-search task, and a similar pattern of results was observed. Finally, in Experiment 3, a second sample of native Chinese speakers read the same text used in Experiments 1 and 2, with text characters again exhibiting complexity effects. These results collectively suggest that character-complexity effects on eye movements may not be due to lexical processing per se but may instead reflect whatever visual processing is required to know whether or not a character corresponds to an episodically represented target. The theoretical implications of this for our understanding of normal reading are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-151
Number of pages12
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date13 Jan 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • character complexity effects
  • English speakers
  • native Chinese speakers
  • reading
  • visual search

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Character-complexity effects in Chinese reading and visual search: a comparison and theoretical implications'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this