Publication Date

April 2010

Advisor(s)

Barbara Juhasz

Major

Psychology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Most of the words in a person’s vocabulary are acquired during the course of natural reading, through a process called incidental word learning. The current study investigated the effects of context length on incidental word learning, using a combination of word learning and eye-tracking methodologies. Participants read novel words embedded in either sentence or paragraph contexts while their eyes were tracked. Eye movement measures, primarily gaze duration and total time, demonstrated that novel words had longer reading times than real words, and that words in sentence contexts had longer reading times than words in paragraphs. The increased processing devoted to words in sentences may result in an increased rate of learning for novel words. This effect was not verified by the post-test vocabulary assessment, which did not find significant word learning. The low rate of learning observed in this study is attributed to the absence of any benefit from partial word knowledge.

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