Developmental Differences in the Relationship Between Visual Attention Span and Chinese Reading Fluency

Chen Huang, Maria Luisa Lorusso, Zheng Luo, Jing Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It has been suggested that there is a close relationship between visual attention span (VAS) and fluent reading. This relation may be modulated by participants’ age, and exhibits various patterns in different reading modes (i.e., oral vs. silent reading) and different reading levels (e.g., sentence vs. character/word levels). Moreover, the modulation effects from the above factors might be more remarkable in the framework of languages with a deep orthography. Therefore, the present study investigated the developmental pattern of the relationship between VAS skills and reading fluency in Chinese, a language with particularly deep orthography, by recruiting 292 participants from primary schools, middle schools, and universities. Two tests were utilized to assess fluent reading skills at the single-character and sentence levels with oral and silent reading modes. A visual 1-back task was adopted to reflect VAS capacity with non-verbal stimuli and no verbal response. Results showed that the VAS capacity of low-grade primary school students could significantly account for the variance in single-character reading fluency in the oral mode and that it was a significant predictor of sentence reading fluency in the oral mode among high-grade primary school students. VAS abilities of middle school students allowed a unique and stable prediction of their silent sentence reading. With increasing reading ability, VAS skills of adults showed significant and similar predictive power for estimating the variations in fluent sentence reading in both silent and oral modes. These results revealed developmental changes in the contribution of VAS to fluent reading in Chinese, and provided evidence unveiling whether the underlying mechanisms of oral and silent reading were shared or different.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2450
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - Nov 6 2019


  • Chinese reading development
  • sentence reading
  • silent/oral reading fluency
  • single-character reading
  • visual attention span

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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