Keep an eye on information processing: Eye tracking evidence for the influence of hypertext structures on navigational behaviour and textual complexity

Margit Reitbauer


In the following empirical study the influence of hypertext structures on the processing of information will be examined using eye tracking data. It will be tested whether the organizational structure of hypertexts influences
navigational behaviour. Moreover we want to find out whether the information architecture has an effect on the number and duration of fixations and reading comprehension. A source text on the topic of speed reading consisting of 597 words was converted into an axial and a networked hypertext. The subjects in this test series were 22 students of English and American studies from Graz University, who were all on the level of C1 according to the common European Framework of Reference. To sample the position of the user’s eye on an average of every 20 ms the Eye Tracker Tobii 1750 was used. The data were analyzed using the software program Clearview. The eye tracking data depicting scan paths and hot spot images of areas of highest fixation count suggest that prototypical hypertext structures trigger prototypical gaze patterns, which means that the order in which links and nodes received their first fixation was stable. The average dwell time in the defined areas of interest was lower in the network structure while the axial structure produced fewer regressive eye movements and caused fewer orientation problems. The presentation format did not significantly affect comprehension.

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