PhD Studentship: Return sweeps eye movements during reading in normal ageing: perceptual and language interactions

Bournemouth University - Department of Psychology

Lead Supervisor name: Timothy J. Slattery

The Department of Psychology is offering a 3 year fully-funded (matched funding from Microsoft and BU) PhD with associated teaching responsibilities. The studentship is for a project examining the eye movement behaviour of older adults when they read.

Project background:

More people are living longer than ever before. The ability to read efficiently for enjoyment, and for information acquisition is easy to take for granted. However, elderly readers may struggle to read textual displays designed for younger people. By exploring the various cognitive processes involved with reading and how they change during normal aging, more efficient design choices can be made for products and reading materials aimed at the elderly.

Return sweep eye movements (saccades) are the largest saccades readers typically make—they move the reader's point of gaze from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next—but have been largely ignored by reading research until recently. Therefore, little is known about the cognitive processes underlying the targeting and execution of these eye-movements.

This PhD studentship will examine cognitive processes related to return-sweeps in older readers and the influence they may have on reading performance and comprehension. The project will collect eye movement data from older adults who are experiencing normal cognitive aging. Additionally, measures of reading / spelling ability as well as visual acuity will be collected to see how these relate reading performance and oculomotor control. In particular, we will explore Keith Rayner’s risky reading strategy hypothesis (Rayner, Reichle, Stroud, Williams, & Pollatsek, 2006). This hypothesis posits that, older readers are more likely to guess upcoming words based on prior context more than younger readers are. However, they are also more likely to guess incorrectly than younger readers are. This results in older readers needing to look back to re-read more often. Because of this strategy older readers may be more negatively impacted by certain text layouts (e.g. if difficult to read words are placed just before or just after a line break).

What does the funded studentship include?

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £14,777 per annum (unless otherwise specified), to cover their living expenses and have their fees waived for 36 months. In addition, research costs, including field work and conference attendance, will be met.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.

Eligibility criteria:

Candidates for funded PhD studentship must demonstrate outstanding qualities and be motivated to complete a PhD in 3 years.

Studentship candidates must demonstrate outstanding academic potential with a 1st class honours degree and/or a Master’s degree with distinction. An IELTS (Academic) score of 6.5 minimum (with a minimum 6 in each component) is essential for candidates for whom English is not their first language.

Additional Eligibility:

Candidates must have a strong knowledge of Cognitive Psychology, Linguistics, or a closely related discipline. Additionally, computer programming skills are desirable.

Closing date: The first call for applications will close on Monday 3 June 2018.

For further information on how to apply click the ‘Apply’ button below or email

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