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Academic Paper

Title: Ecological Validity in Eye-Tracking
Author: Patti Spinner
Institution: Michigan State University
Author: Susan M. Gass
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Michigan State University, USA
Author: Jennifer Behney
Institution: Michigan State University
Linguistic Field: Language Acquisition
Abstract: Eye-trackers are becoming increasingly widespread as a tool to investigate second language (L2) acquisition. Unfortunately, clear standards for methodology—including font size, font type, and placement of interest areas—are not yet available. Although many researchers stress the need for ecological validity—that is, the simulation of natural reading conditions—it may not be prudent to use such a design to investigate new directions in eye-tracking research, and particularly in research involving small lexical items such as articles. In this study, we examine whether two different screen layouts can lead to different results in an eye-tracking study on the L2 acquisition of Italian gender. The results of an experiment with an ecologically valid design are strikingly different than the results of an experiment with a design tailored to track eye movements to articles. We conclude that differences in screen layout can have significant effects on results and that it is crucial that researchers report screen layout information.


This article appears IN Studies in Second Language Acquisition Vol. 35, Issue 2, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .

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