In several occasions, while reading, it has happened to me that when re-reading a sentence, I find out I read it wrong the first time; every time it is only one letter the one that I get wrong, but I always notice the mistake after reading once again.

It has just happened to me some minutes ago while taking a Japanese hiragana quiz; I read the "の" (in "みせのなまえ") as "い" instead, but the second time I saw the correct character; both characters look a bit alike. I don't remember other examples.

This problem doesn't seem to fit any symptoms of dyslexia (at least the ones listed here: http://www.dyslexia.com/library/information.htm#Reading), and I haven't identified other problems with my reading, writing or spelling.

Some search results (like this: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-I-read-words-wrong-sometimes-frequently) say it's simply reading too fast, but I was wondering if any of you knew something about it.

Are these mistakes common? Does the phenomenon have a name? What does this mean?

  • 1
    I presume it's a normal behaviour in learning a new language and no particular name has been chosen. There are some resources on reading comprehension in psycholinguistics and applied linguistics, but nothing particular. Refer to Jack c. Richards books on reading there's no specific book but you might find something. Mar 22, 2016 at 9:28
  • This question is probably better suited at Psychology & Neuroscience.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 22, 2016 at 12:25
  • 1
    @curiousdannii I am not sure of that. Psycholinguists at our department were quite interested in these things. I have answered the question, but if you think it's not good enough, I could add a few more examples that bring it more firmly under the purview of linguistics.
    – prash
    Mar 26, 2016 at 12:44
  • I liked your answer, but I would greatly appreaciate some more examples.
    – Moltrox
    Mar 29, 2016 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


Does the phenomenon have a name?

It's called regression or regressive fixation.

Are these mistakes common?

Very. Even skilled readers make them all the time, typically when an unexpected word breaks their flow. It's one of the key parameters studied in eye-tracking experiments.

What does this mean?

Beyond stating the obvious, there are subtle reasons why the reading process suffers from intermittent failures and corrections. These corrections can be used to understand 1. how a beginner approaches a new language, 2. what kinds of sentence structures impede comprehension, 3. what kinds of fonts are best for various kinds of text, and so on.

Here is an arbitrary list of papers, if you want to explore the topic further:

  1. Using Eye Movements to Evaluate the Cognitive Processes Involved in Text Comprehension
  2. An Eye Tracking Study of How Font Size and Type Influence Online Reading
  3. Using Eye Tracking to Assess Reading Performance in Patients with Glaucoma: A Within-Person Study
  4. Eye movements, the perceptual span, and reading speed
  • There are quite a few textbooks on eye tracking methods, which I'm sure will give a more comprehensive overview, but I would't know which one to recommend.
    – prash
    Mar 26, 2016 at 13:03

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