2 children reading on a laptop

Reading and Language Research

The study of eye movements in reading has been widely investigated for more than a century to provide insights into how people gather information. Eye tracking has become an established tool to objectively measure human language processing with important applications in linguistics and education research. 

Why use eye tracking?

Tobii Pro Spectrum used for reading study

Eye tracking is a scientific research methodology used to understand human cognitive processes and behavioral patterns, as we perceive, process, and comprehend language.  

Eye movement data provide valuable insight into written language comprehension. It helps understand language processing at various levels of analysis within the sentence: character, syllable, word, phrase, or sentence.

In educational psychology, eye tracking can prove to be a great tool to gain insights into learning behavior, cognitive load, and engagement. The results help effectively design, evaluate, and improve educational materials and learning situations.

Moreover, eye tracking methodology can be used to reveal atypical reading patterns. It provides a robust source of insight into conditions, therefore opening the possibility of an objective, unobtrusive diagnostic tool for learning difficulties such as dyslexia.


What does eye tracking data tell us?

Jacqueline gaze plots

Eye movement analysis allows for objective insight into text processing, by providing information about the duration of visual attention assigned to specific text parts at the level of phrase, word, or even character.

For instance:

  • Skipping to read a unit may indicate ease of processing due to very high predictability in the given context.
  • Longer reading times may indicate confusion, or difficulty to comprehend.
  • Long regressions (more than 10 letter spaces back along the line or to another line) may indicate difficulty in comprehending or incorporating a unit into the previous context.

Learn more about eye tracking metrics for reading studies

Products and services 

Tobii Pro provides a range of eye tracking based solutions for reading and language research. All our solutions offer hardware technology and software analysis tools together with support and training. 

Reading Research with Tobii Pro Spectrum Eye Tracker

Screen-based eye trackers 

Tobii Pro Spectrum captures gaze data at speeds up to 1200 Hz. It is our most advanced eye tracking platform designed for extensive studies into human behavior and cognitive processing, as well as the mechanics of the fastest eye movements. The system maintains high accuracy, precision, and tracking robustness during subjects' natural head movements in all directions.

Tobii Pro Fusion is a fully portable, USB connected eye tracker offered at sampling frequencies of up to 250 Hz, to support lab-standard reading experiments in schools, libraries, and other locations where participants are easier to access.

Two people using wearable eye trackers to look at a mobile phone

Wearable eye trackers

Tobii Pro Glasses 3 is our newest wearable eye tracker, for high-quality research in natural environments. It enables the study of real-world perceptions and interactions, as well as mobile device interfaces, wayfinding, etc. 

Tom text

Analysis software 

Data acquired from both our wearable and screen-based solutions can be analyzed using Tobii Pro Lab, a scientific software platform that meets the demands of different research scenarios with precise timing accuracy. Pro Lab provides a visual user interface and dedicated features that guide the researcher through the entire research workflow. For example, the automatically generated AOIs at a character, word, or sentence level in the text stimulus allows for the extraction of common reading-specific metrics. Pro Lab also offers the ability to sync with other biometric data sources.

Woman using a Tobii Pro Chin Rest

Chin rest

Tobii Pro eye trackers are designed to capture high-quality eye tracking data while allowing for natural head movements. However, some experiments may benefit from gently stabilizing the participant’s head position by using a chin rest to help reduce artifacts in the gaze signal which can be caused by head movements.

Related articles

Tobii Pro Spectrum eye tracker

Product update

A new solution for reading research

With the latest version of Tobii Pro Lab 1.162, users can automatically generate areas of interest (AOIs) at a character, word, or sentence level. They can then extract common reading-specific metrics that are critical for conducting text-based eye tracking research.

Learn more

Woman looking at gaze plots using Tobii Pro Lab

Learn article

How reading metrics work

This detailed article aims to explain the main concepts and specific metrics in reading studies, based on the reading research solution implemented in Tobii Pro Lab. Concepts as "Progression" and "Regression", "Skip", "First-pass first fixation duration", "First-pass duration", "Regression-path duration" will be explained.

Read the article

Girl in front of laptop online learning


How to turn eye tracking research into EdTech innovation

Researchers and entrepreneurs from BrainLeap and Lexplore share their eye tracking research in fields of reading and education, as well as how they applied their findings to establish themselves commercially in the EdTech space.

Watch the webinar

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