The “risky” reading strategy revisited: new simulations using E-Z reader

Victoria A. McGowan*, Erik D. Reichle

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Eye-movement studies have demonstrated that, relative to college-aged readers, older readers of alphabetic languages like English and German tend to read more slowly, making more frequent and longer fixations and longer saccades, and skipping more words, but also making more frequent regressions. These findings have led to suggestions that older readers either adopt a “risky” strategy of using context to “guess” words as a way of compensating for slower rates of lexical processing, or have a smaller and more asymmetrical perceptual span. Unfortunately, neither of these hypotheses seemingly explains more recent observations that older readers of Chinese seem to adopt a more “conservative” strategy, making shorter saccades and skipping less often. In this paper, we use the E-Z Reader model of eye-movement control to examine several possible accounts of the differences between college-aged and older readers of both alphabetic and non-alphabetic languages. These simulations re-confirm that the “risky” strategy may be sufficient to explain age-related differences in reader’s eye movements, with older readers of English versus Chinese being, respectively, more versus less inclined to guess upcoming words. The implications of these results for aging, reading, and models of eye-movement control are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-189
Number of pages11
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • aging
  • computational models
  • E-Z reader
  • reading
  • saccades


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