Working Group 4

The ergonomics of reading (physiology; haptic & tactile feedback)

Reading has usually been considered as a purely cognitive process, only based on visual perception, and not really involving body actions except eye movements and, to a lesser extent, head movements. Yet, reading is a multimodal activity involving other body parts, particularly the hands, and hence depending also on haptic (kinesthetic and tactile) information. Although manipulating is an intrinsic part of the reading process, this dimension has not been much explored in empirical reading research, regardless of discipline. One of the most obvious differences between reading from paper and from screens is that print books lend an obvious physicality to individual texts, while e-books are not tangible volumes and are differently touched, held, carried and navigated. Paper is manipulated by manual dexterity, using fingers to turn pages, keeping one finger in a section as a location aid, or flicking through dozens of pages while browsing the contents of a document. Interactions with the physical support of the computer screen or the e-book during reading are very different than with a paper book. Many studies in experimental psychology and neuroscience show that manipulation provides spatial information which is crucial for building coherent mental representations of the manipulated object. In a book, spatial information (“where in the book”) can be directly related to time (“when in the story”).

For additional information about Ergonomics of reading please contact Theresa Schilhab.


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