Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Tachistoscope

I never thought I would hear about these devices again but apparently they are alive and well in another form. Originally tachistoscopes were often used to help improve reading fluency. And now there is a software that simulates that. However, tachistoscopes can also be used to test the readability of a font. Fontblog has a recent post on using a tachistoscope to test the readability of ClearType. From ClearType improves our accuracy at recognizing words ,

Tachistoscopic Lexical Decision is a technique that has been used extensively to measure word recognition. Tachistoscopes were a mechanical device for presenting materials briefly, but have been replaced by computers. Readers are briefly shown either a regular word in their native language (e.g. distant) or a pseudoword (e.g. tadints), which is not a word in their native language. The reader’s task is to say if they saw a word or pseudoword. The advantage to this methodology it only requires the reader to complete a very simple task of pressing one button for words or another for pseudowords. This allows more accurate timing for word recognition.

A team led by Professors Lee Gugerty and Rick Tyrrell at Clemson University studied the effects of ClearType on the tachistoscopic lexical decision task. Read the rest of this post here.

Read more about the tachistoscope here. Try taking these tachistoscope tests.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received my education at a private school that used tachistoscopes (the kind that scrolls pages of text through a window) for speed reading courses. This course was obligatory from early grades all the way to grade 12 unless your reading skills exceeded the machine's top speed — 1,800 words per minute. I was one of the only students that ever accomplished this and got to stop attending the course.

Later on, they "upgraded" to tachistoscope-simulating software. I tried it for curiosity's sake, but it wasn't that good. Trying to speed read on a low-resolution monitor just wasn't as comfortable, and the text didn't scroll like it did in the real machine.


4:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,

I had no idea. I had heard of this but not in such detail. No wonder, with all the stress on fluency these days, that it is being used again in the software form.

However, I also find it harder to read off a monitor. Evidently ClearType may help that but still...

After getting a lot of info for my blog off the internet I have had to switch back to the UBC library and real books. I use the internet now more often to reference things and chose examples and info that I have already read elsewhere.


10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone here know where I could get one of the old machines (non software)?

10:34 AM  

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