This study investigates the effects of background knowledge on Chinese word processing during silent reading by monitoring adult readers' eye movements. Both higher knowledge (physics major) and lower knowledge (nonphysics major) graduate students were given physics texts to read. Higher knowledge readers spent less time rereading and had lower regression rates on unfamiliar physics words and common words in physics texts than did lower knowledge readers; they also had shorter gaze durations and fewer first-pass fixations on familiar physics words than on unfamiliar physics words. For unfamiliar physics words and common words, both groups predominantly fixated first on the beginnings of words when they made multiple fixations on a word and on a left-of-centre location when they fixated only once on a word. These findings suggest that both groups comprise mature readers with strong language concepts. However, differences in background knowledge led to different reading processes at different stages of reading.
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