Mr. Chips: an ideal-observer model of reading

Psychol Rev. 1997 Jul;104(3):524-53. doi: 10.1037/0033-295x.104.3.524.


The integration of visual, lexical, and oculomotor information is a critical part of reading. Mr. Chips is an ideal-observer model that combines these sources of information optimally to read simple texts in the minimum number of saccades. In the model, the concept of the visual span (the number of letters that can be identified in a single fixation) plays a key, unifying role. The behavior of the model provides a computational framework for reexamining the literature on human reading saccades. Emergent properties of the model, such as regressive saccades and an optimal-viewing position, suggest new interpretations of human behavior. Because Mr. Chip's "retina" can have any (one-dimensional) arrangement of high-resolution regions and scotomas, the model can simulate common visual disorders. Surprising saccade strategies are linked to the pattern of scotomas. For example, Mr. Chips sometimes plans a saccade that places a decisive letter in a scotoma. This article provides the first quantitative model of the effects of scotomas on reading.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Optic Disk / physiology*
  • Reading*
  • Reference Values
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Saccades / physiology*
  • Vision, Low / physiopathology