The Effects of Flicker on Eye Movement Control

Alan Kennedy, Wayne S. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Groups of typists with extensive experience of screen-based editing and groups of students with no such experience carried out a reading task under three conditions of illumination (50-Hz flicker, 100-Hz flicker, and steady illumination). Subjects read a sentence, which was followed by the presentation of a single stimulus word on the same line to the right-hand side of the display. The task was to decide whether or not the stimulus was present in the sentence. Subjects were free to re-inspect the sentence when making the decision. Eye movements were measured as subjects completed the task. In comparison with students, typists adopted a more cautious reading style, making more right-to-left saccades, shorter saccades, and more corrective eye movements. Flicker affected the performance of both groups of subjects in the first pass, leading to shorter saccades. In the second pass, its effect for students was to shorten the extent of large saccades made to check the presence of the stimulus word. In the group of typists, flicker led to an increase in the variability of saccade extent and a doubling in the number of small corrective saccades. The results are consistent with the view that flicker has two distinct effects on reading, both of which are potentially disruptive. The first relates to an increase in the number of prematurely triggered saccades, which are, as a result, less accurate. The second is an increase in the number of saccades perturbed in flight, which land short of their intended target. These two mechanisms may have different consequences for readers, depending on their reading style.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-99
Number of pages21
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • General Psychology


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