This eye-tracking study tests the hypothesis that more attention leads to more learning, following claims that attention to new language elements in the input results in their initial representation in long-term memory (i.e., intake; Robinson, 2003; Schmidt, 1990, 2001).
Twenty-eight advanced learners of English read English texts that contained 12 targets for incidental word learning. The target was a known word (control condition), a matched pseudoword, or that pseudoword preceded or followed by the known word (with the latter being a cue to the pseudoword’s meaning). Participants’ eye-fixation durations on the targets during reading served as a measure of the amount of attention paid (see Rayner, 2009).
Results indicate that participants spent more time processing the unknown pseudowords than their matched controls. The longer participants looked at a pseudoword during reading, the more likely they were to recognize that word in an unannounced vocabulary posttest. Finally, the known, appositive cues were fixated longer when they followed the pseudowords than when they preceded them; however, their presence did not lead to higher retention of the pseudowords.
We discuss how eye-tracking may add to existing methodologies for studying attention and noticing (Schmidt, 1990) in SLA.