This study investigated context effects of online processing of Chinese academic words during text reading. Undergraduate participants were asked to read Chinese texts that were familiar or unfamiliar (containing physics terminology) to them. Physics texts were selected first, and then we replaced the physics terminology with familiar words; other common words remained the same in both text versions. Our results indicate that readers experienced longer rereading times and total fixation durations for the same common words in the physics texts than for the corresponding texts. Shorter gaze durations were observed for the replaced words than the physics terminology; however, the duration of participants' first fixations on these two word types did not differ from each other. Furthermore, although the participants performed similar reading paths after encountering the target words of the physics terminology and replaced words, their processing duration of the current sentences was very different. They reread the physics terminology more times and spent more reading time on the current sentences containing the physics terminology, searching for more information to aid comprehension. This study showed that adult readers seemed to successfully access each Chinese character's meaning but initially failed to access the meaning of the physics terminology. This could be attributable to the nature of the formation of Chinese words; however, the use of contextual information to comprehend unfamiliar words is a universal phenomenon.
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