Workpackage 6. Cognitive Processes in Written Production in Romance Languages

Co-ordinator: M.Fayol & D. Alamargot

Participants : Blaise Pascal University, University of Granada

Background and Proposed Studies.

Workpackage 6 is to investigate the development of higher-level writing skills, using a new eye- and pen-tracking technology (Eye and Pen© software (1, 2.) to compare the realtime written production of words and sentences in different language systems that are characterized by varying degrees of opaqueness (French, Spanish (3,4). Eye movement recordings have been used in reading studies to track the resolution of phenomena like subject-verb agreement (5) and spelling (6).Their application in the field of writing in the 1990s was restricted to the study of professional typists in a copying task (7). The recent development and distribution of Eye and Pen© software (2) provides an opportunity to extend the scope of this research to handwriting. The conjunct analysis of eye and graphomotor movements constitutes a new spelling research paradigm, making it possible to track controlled and automatic processes without interfering in the course of these processes. When it is matched to spelling production, the conjunct analysis of writing rate (slowing down, pausing) and associated eye activity (progressives and regressive fixations) will make it possible to identify the sentences where automatic processes (characterized by a rapid rate and eye-pen synchronization) are replaced by controlled processes. Thus, when subjects are wrestling with the production of a difficult lexical or morphosyntactic unit, we would expect the increase in attentional demand to slow down the pace of graphomotor execution (8) – if not bring it to a halt (long pause).

The Eye and Pen technology will also complement the already existing paradigms for investigating the controlled and automatic processes in handwritten spelling production, such as the dual tasks (9), in which the secondary task blocks the controlled processes without interfering with the main task (e.g. at the phonological level) or prompts a trade-off between the two. However, while dual tasks are necessarily based on processing failure, the eye-and-pen paradigm focuses on strategies that lead to a successful outcome.

The studies will be restricted to two phenomena:

  • The production of subject-verb agreement in a number of highly specific sentences in languages whose plural markings are audible (Spanish) vs. silent (French).
  • The production of words that are difficult to spell in both languages, due to the presence of silent letters, especially doublets. Productions will be assessed by means of a dual realtime analysis of writing rate/pauses and by eye movements revealing the writer’s search for information, either in his or her own written trace (dictation task) and/or from external information sources (copying task).

Two linguistic units will be taken into account: words (10) and sentences (11).


(1). Alamargot, D., Chesnet, D., Dansac, C., & Ros, C. (2006). Eye and Pen: a new device to study the reading during writing. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 38(2), 287-299.

(2). Chesnet, D., & Alamargot, D. (2005). Analyses en temps réel des activités oculaires et graphomotrices du scripteur: intérêt du dispositif 'Eye and Pen'. L'Année Psychologique, 105(3), 477-520

(3). Nicol, J. & Greth, D. (2003). Production of Subject–Verb Agreement in Spanish as a Second Language. Experimental Psychology, 50 (3), 196-203.

(4). Vigliocco, G., Butterworth, B., & Garrett, M.F. (1996). Subject-verb agreement in Spanish and English: Differences in the role of conceptual constraints. Cognition, 61(3), 261-298.

(5). Rayner, K., Warren, T., Juhasz, B. J., & Liversedge, S. P. (2004). The Effect of Plausibility on Eye Movements in Reading. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 30(6), 1290-1301

(6). Lima, S. D., & Inhoff, A. W. (1985). Lexical Access During Eye Fixations in Reading: Effects of Word-Initial Letter Sequence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 11(3), 272-285

(7). Inhoff, A. W., & Gordon, A. M. (1998). Eye movements and eye-hand coordination during typing. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 6(6), 153-157.

(8). Chanquoy, L., Foulin, J.-N., & Fayol, M. (1990). Temporal management of short text writing by children and adults. Cahiers de Psychologie Cognitive, 10(5), 513-540.

(9). Fayol, M., Largy, P., & Lemaire, P. (1994). When cognitive overload enhances subject-verb agreement errors. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 47A, 437-464

(10). Pacton, S., Perruchet, P., Fayol, M. & Cleeremans, A. (2001). Implicit Learning Out of the Lab: The Case of Orthographic Regularities Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 130(3), 401-426

(11). Bock, J. K., & Miller, C. A. (1991). Broken agreement. Cognitive Psychology, 23, 45-93.