Visual search strategies and eye movements when searching Chinese character screens

Ravindra S. Goonetilleke, W. C. Lau, Heloisa M. Shih

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Scopus citations


    Most visual search studies have been restricted to alphanumeric stimulus materials. Research related to scanning patterns of Chinese characters is sparse. This study is an attempt to understand the differences and similarities in visual search of Chinese characters having a varying degree of complexity among Hong Kong Chinese, Mainland Chinese and Chinese reading non-Chinese people. Eighteen participants were tested on Chinese character screens with three layouts (row, column, and uniform separation) and two word complexities (high and low). The 18 participants comprised six Hong Kong Chinese, six Mainland Chinese and six non-native Chinese readers. Performance data and eye movement data were recorded. The percent correct and search time were the two performance measures. A new measure, called HV-ratio was developed to characterize eye movements. The results show that Hong Kong Chinese use predominantly horizontal search patterns while the Mainland Chinese change their search pattern depending on the layout presented. Non-native Chinese readers, on the other hand, do not seem to show any preference on scanning strategy for a given layout. Word complexity did not show any significant effect on search time. Potential reasons for these differences and design implications are discussed.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)447-468
    Number of pages22
    JournalInternational Journal of Human Computer Studies
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 2002


    • Character search
    • Chinese
    • Eye movement
    • Reading pattern
    • Visual search
    • Word complexity


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