Erik D. Reichle, Ph.D.
Professor of Cognitive Psychology & Head of School of Psychological Sciences
Carl Sagan (1980) acknowledged the importance of reading, noting that it is “perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other,” allowing one to be “inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.” My research attempts to understand and describe the mental processes that allow this to happen. Put another way, my research attempts to answer the question: How are vision, attention, memory, and language processing coordinated to support our understanding of text? My motivation for studying this question is twofold.
The first is that I agree with Sagan and further argue that our capacity to read is the foundation of civilization and, as such, plays a critical role in the functioning of any democratically healthy, technologically advanced society. It therefore stands to reason that one might contribute to the continuation of such societies by better understanding how to teach this important skill. My research, in collaboration with many colleagues, makes a modest contribution to this end.
The second is that reading provides an ideal “lens” through which to examine how perception and cognition are coordinated to support skilled reading. As a minimum, these mental processes include whatever visual and attentional processing are required to encode the printed form of a word so that its pronunciation and meaning can be accessed from memory, as well as the linguistic processing required to understand and remember the meanings of individual sentences and texts.
My research therefore focuses on the development of computer models of those processes, and experiments to evaluate the explanatory adequacy of these models (e.g., by comparing simulated and observed pattens of eye movements). This work has mainly focused on one particular model, E-Z Reader, but with the publication of my book, I will continue developing Über-Reader – a model that simulates all of the core processes involved in reading, including word identification, sentence processing, discourse representation, and how these processes are coordinated with visual, attention, and eye-movement control.
This work has and will continue in collaboration with many of the world’s leading reading researchers, using eye-tracking and other methodologies (e.g., ERP) to answer a number of basic questions related to reading. For example, I’m currently working with Lili Yu (also at Macquarie University) and Yanping Liu (Sun Yat-sen University, China) to better understand how the profound differences between the English versus Chinese writing systems affect word identification and the movement of the eyes and attention during reading.
If you would like to learn more about my research or would like .pdf copies of any of my research publications, please e-mail me. My book, Computational Models of Reading: A Handbook, is available from Oxford University Press: