Children reading on a screen

Reading and language

Understanding how we read and acquire language

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?

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

Person looking at Tobii Pro Lab softare - Reading function

Eye tracking insights

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?

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.

Person reading at a laptop using Tobii Pro Lab software

Eye tracking data can be used to draw valuable conclusions such as:

  • 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.

Reading Research with Tobii Pro Spectrum Eye Tracker

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Customer stories

Assessing reading habits with eye tracking

Close to eight million people in Germany struggle with reading, and as one of the peak bodies for promoting literacy, Stiftung Lesen (German Reading Foundation) wants to change that. As part of its activities, the organization conducts research into the behaviors and reading habits of young people and adults.

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Eye tracking and reading research in practice

Advantages of print reading over screen reading: A comparison of visual patterns, reading performance, and reading attitudes across paper, computers, and tablets

Jeong and Gweon (2021) combined Tobii Pro Glasses 3 and Tobii Pro Lab to compare readers’ visual patterns, reading performance, and reading attitudes when reading from three reading media: print, computer and tablet. The study results revealed that digital text leads to longer fixation duration and lower fixation count, suggesting a higher cognitive load compared to print reading.

Note-taking effort in video remote interpreting: effects of source speech difficulty and interpreter work experience

Kuang and Zheng (2022) used Tobii Pro Fusion and Tobii Pro Lab to investigate how speech difficulty affects interpreters’ note-taking effort. From the eye tracking data researchers inferred overt visual attention and cognitive effort spared to note-taking. The study results showed that an increase of perceived language difficulty leads to a decrease overt visual attention, while the cognitive effort was not affected.

Eye tracking analysis of code layout, crowding and dyslexia - An open data set

McChesney and colleagues (2021) combined Tobii X3-120 and Tobii Pro Lab to examine how crowding in program code affects programmers with dyslexia. The analysis of gaze behavior revealed that dyslexia does not significantly affect code reading and program comprehension.

Enabling success

Tobii offers tailored support to address research needs throughout your journey with Tobii’s eye tracking.

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Tobii Funding support services

Tobii Funding support services help you improve your grant proposals for research that includes eye tracking in its methodology

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Tobii Connect delivers product documentation, how-to guides, and answers to FAQs as well as access to software updates. Our customer care services help with any technical issues concerning Tobii products.

Tobii Academy

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Tobii Academy our online learning platform, helping you ensure study success at every step of the way from study design to interpreting your eye tracking data.


Hou, G., & Hu, Y. (2021). Designing Combinations of Pictogram and Text Size for Icons: Effects of Text Size, Pictogram Size, and Familiarity on Older Adults’ Visual Search Performance. Human Factors, 00187208211061938.

Sümer, Ö., Bozkir, E., Kübler, T., Grüner, S., Utz, S., & Kasneci, E. (2021). FakeNewsPerception: An eye movement dataset on the perceived believability of news stories. Data in Brief, 35, 106909.

Higuchi, H., Okumura, Y., & Kobayashi, T. (2021). An eye-tracking study of letter-sound correspondence in Japanese-speaking 2- to 3-year-old toddlers. Scientific Reports, 11(1), 1659.

Łuniewska, M., Wójcik, M., & Jednoróg, K. (2021). The effect of inter-letter spacing on reading performance and eye movements in typically reading and dyslexic children. Learning and Instruction, 101576.

Chitalkina, N., Bednarik, R., Puurtinen, M., & Gruber, H. (2020). When you ignore what you see: How to study proof-readers’ error in pseudocode reading. ACM Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications, 1–5.