The Adaptive Nature of Eye Movements in Linguistic Tasks: How Payoff and Architecture Shape Speed‐Accuracy Trade‐Offs

Topics in Cognitive Science 5 (3):581-610 (2013)
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We explore the idea that eye-movement strategies in reading are precisely adapted to the joint constraints of task structure, task payoff, and processing architecture. We present a model of saccadic control that separates a parametric control policy space from a parametric machine architecture, the latter based on a small set of assumptions derived from research on eye movements in reading (Engbert, Nuthmann, Richter, & Kliegl, 2005; Reichle, Warren, & McConnell, 2009). The eye-control model is embedded in a decision architecture (a machine and policy space) that is capable of performing a simple linguistic task integrating information across saccades. Model predictions are derived by jointly optimizing the control of eye movements and task decisions under payoffs that quantitatively express different desired speed-accuracy trade-offs. The model yields distinct eye-movement predictions for the same task under different payoffs, including single-fixation durations, frequency effects, accuracy effects, and list position effects, and their modulation by task payoff. The predictions are compared to—and found to accord with—eye-movement data obtained from human participants performing the same task under the same payoffs, but they are found not to accord as well when the assumptions concerning payoff optimization and processing architecture are varied. These results extend work on rational analysis of oculomotor control and adaptation of reading strategy (Bicknell & Levy, ; McConkie, Rayner, & Wilson, 1973; Norris, 2009; Wotschack, 2009) by providing evidence for adaptation at low levels of saccadic control that is shaped by quantitatively varying task demands and the dynamics of processing architecture.



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Satinder Singh
Fordham University