Are older adults more risky readers? Evidence from meta-analysis

Zhang, J., Warrington, K.L. ORCID: 0000-0003-3206-8002, Li, L., Pagán, A., Paterson, K.B., White, S.J. and McGowan, V.A., 2022. Are older adults more risky readers? Evidence from meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging. ISSN 0882-7974

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According to an influential account of aging effects on reading, older adults (65+ years) employ a more “risky” reading strategy compared to young adults (18–30 years), in which they attempt to compensate for slower processing by using lexical and contextual knowledge to guess upcoming (i.e., parafoveal) words more often. Consequently, while older adults may read more slowly, they might also skip words more often (by moving their gaze past words without fixating them), especially when these are of higher lexical frequency or more predictable from context. However, this characterization of aging effects on reading has been challenged recently following several failures to replicate key aspects of the risky reading hypothesis, as well as evidence that key effects predicted by the hypothesis are not observed in Chinese reading. To resolve this controversy, we conducted a meta-analysis of 102 eye movement experiments comparing the reading performance of young and older adults. We focused on the reading of sentences displayed normally (i.e., without unusual formatting or structures, or use of gaze-contingent display change techniques), conducted using an alphabetic script or Chinese, and including experiments manipulating the frequency or predictability of a specific target word. Meta-analysis confirmed that slower reading by older compared to younger adults is accompanied by increased word-skipping, although only for alphabetic scripts. Meta-analysis additionally showed that word-skipping probabilities are unaffected by age differences in word frequency or predictability effects, casting doubt on a central component of the risky reading hypothesis. We consider implications for future research on aging effects on reading. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved)

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Psychology and Aging
Creators: Zhang, J., Warrington, K.L., Li, L., Pagán, A., Paterson, K.B., White, S.J. and McGowan, V.A.
Publisher: American Psychological Association
Date: 31 January 2022
ISSN: 0882-7974
Rights: This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher.
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 03 Feb 2022 14:11
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2022 14:11

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