A study on perceptual span among typically developing Chinese children has been published by Prof. Ming YAN and his colleagues in the journal of Scientific Studies on Reading.

During reading of continuous text, readers can typically acquire visual information from an area beyond the currently fixated word, and the spatial extent of visual processing (i.e., perceptual span) is narrow. Adult readers of English can obtain useful visual information from an area covering 4 letters leftward and 15 letters rightward of the current fixation, whereas Chinese adults have a perceptual span covering 1 character leftward and up to 4 characters rightward of the current fixation.

Up to now, little is known about how the perceptual span matures in children. The research topic is of great importance because it sheds light on how effective training programs can be developed for children. In the present study, the perceptual span of typically developing Chinese children in Grade 3 was explored when they read age-appropriate sentences. Overall, the children had a smaller perceptual span than adults, covering only 1 character leftward and 2 characters rightward of the currently fixation. In addition, fluent readers benefited from previewing the third upcoming characters, showing a larger and more adult-like perceptual span. These results suggest that the perceptual span is modulated dynamically by reading ability. Arguably, non-fluent readers needed to focus more on foveal words, leading to a smaller perceptual span and less efficient processing.

Scientific Studies of Reading (SSR) is the official journal of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading and publishes original empirical investigations to disseminate information about reading and related areas such as language and literacy. It has a 5-year impact factor of 3.759 (2018 Journal Citation Reports).


Yan, M., Li, H., Su, Y., Cao, Y., & Pan, J. (2020). The perceptual span and individual differences among Chinese children. Scientific Studies of Reading. doi: 10.1080/10888438.2020.1713789