The effect of focus on eye movements and language processing
Word processing is not uniformly deep and research has shown that factors such as focus can influence the degree of analysis carried out during reading. Two eye-movement studies manipulated contextual focus and offered no evidence that words are processed more rapidly when they are in focus. Participants read sentences designed to investigate the mechanisms and timing of processing focused concepts. Syntactic and pragmatic anomaly detection was compared to explore whether putting a word into focus brings about a deeper or faster analysis of that word. Focus was constructed using an implicit question to focus attention onto the congruent or anomalous word. Results showed that words are not accessed more rapidly when they are focused. However, preliminary evidence suggested that focus allows deeper analysis of a syntactic anomaly, but this interaction is delayed into the post-anomaly region. Finally, eye-movement patterns were found to be distinct for syntactic and pragmatic anomalies that were not related to focus.