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Language-Driven Anticipatory Eye Movements in Virtual Reality

Eichert, N., Peeters, D., & Hagoort, P. (2018). Language-Driven Anticipatory Eye Movements in Virtual Reality. Behavior Research Methods, 50(3), 1102-1115. doi:10.3758/s13428-017-0929-z.
Predictive language processing is often studied by measuring eye movements as participants look at objects on a computer screen while they listen to spoken sentences. The use of this variant of the visual world paradigm has shown that information encountered by a listener at a spoken verb can give rise to anticipatory eye movements to a target object, which is taken to indicate that people predict upcoming words. The ecological validity of such findings remains questionable, however, because these computer experiments used two-dimensional (2D) stimuli that are mere abstractions of real world objects. Here we present a visual world paradigm study in a three-dimensional (3D) immersive virtual reality environment. Despite significant changes in the stimulus material and the different mode of stimulus presentation, language-mediated anticipatory eye movements were observed. These findings thus indicate prediction of upcoming words in language comprehension in a more naturalistic setting where natural depth cues are preserved. Moreover, the results confirm the feasibility of using eye-tracking in rich and multimodal 3D virtual environments.

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