Psychophysics of reading-I. Normal vision

Gordon E. Legge, Denis G. Pelli, Gar S. Rubin, Mary M. Schleske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper is about the visual requirements for reading with normal vision. It is the first in a series devoted to the psychophysics of reading with normal and low vision. We have measured reading rates for text scanned across the face of a TV monitor while varying parameters that are important in current theories of pattern vision. Our results provide estimates of the stimulus parameters required for optimal reading of scanned text. We have found that maximum reading rates are achieved for characters subtending 0.32 to 22. Contrast polarity (black-on-white vs white-on-black text) has no effect. Reading rate increases with field size, but only up to 4 characters, independent of character size. When text is low-pass spatial-frequency filtered, reading rate increases with bandwidth, but only up to two cycles/character, independent of character size. When text is matrix sampled, reading rate increases with sample density, but only up to a critical sample density which depends on character size. The critical sample density increases from about 4 × 4 samples/character for 0.12 characters to more than 20 × 20 samples/character for 24 characters. We suggest that one spatial-frequency channel suffices for reading.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-252
Number of pages14
JournalVision research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1985


  • Low vision
  • Psychophysics
  • Reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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