(Taken from my personal notes of 204-09-02.)

Word shape.

Spotted in the article The Science of Word Recognition by Kevin Larson (July 2004), which says:

The serial letter recognition model is also able to successfully predict that shorter words are recognized faster than longer words. It is a very robust finding that word recognition takes more time with longer words. It takes more time to recognize a 5-letter word than a 4-letter word, and 6-letter words take more time to recognize than 5-letter words. The serial letter recognition model predicts that this should happen, while a word shape model does not make this prediction. In fact, the word shape model should expect longer words with more unique patterns to be easier to recognize than shorter words.

Question: What about narrower letters? Is it (a) length in letters; (b) spatial width; or (c) some shape complexity metric that correlates better with time-to-recognize? The notion that spatial width matters is supported by this later statement in the paper:

The fovea, which is the clear center point of our vision, can only see three to four letters to the left and right of fixation at normal reading distances.

Also, wouldn't letter groups we are trained to see as a unit such as "-ing" or "-tion" count for less than other letter sequences of the same length (due to group recognition, as with subitizing for counting)?

Reading this paper reminded me of parts of Stephen Pinker's Words and Rules (a great book!).

See also: Bouma shape on Double-Tongued Word Wrester.

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