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C Style: Standards and Guidelines (contents)

CHAPTER 2 : Psychological Factors

PART 1 : BASICS

CHAPTER 2 : Psychological Factors

2.1 Pattern Recognition
2.2 Filtering
2.3 Habit
2.4 Redundancy
2.5 Cues and Context
2.6 Recognizing Basic features
2.7 Short Term, Working and Long Term memory
2.8 Chunking
2.9 The Rule of Seven
2.10 Context Switching
2.11 Modifying the image
2.12 Memorizing sounds
2.13 Eye focus
2.14 Eye movement
2.15 Looking ahead
2.16 Looking back
2.17 The subconscious is always right
2.18 Natural ambition
2.19 Summary

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2.14 Eye movement

When you are reading, your eyes move from left to right and top to bottom (unless, of course, you are Arabic or Chinese!). However, when you are reading fast, or scanning for a particular item (such as looking for a particular variable in a code procedure), the eyes skip, and prefer to move in a downwards direction only.

Try an experiment - watch a friend's eyes as they are reading. They don't move smoothly, they skip. Faster readers skip less, taking in bigger chunks of information as they go.

Consider newspapers. Have you ever wondered why they use columns, rather than printing across the page? It is because it is easier to read - watch the eyes, they move only downwards. This is why the columns are about two inches wide; any wider and the eyes will start skipping left to right as well as top to bottom (and they'll get tired sooner and stop reading).

Now, read the following paragraph. Which is easier to read ?

 

Consider newspapers. Have you ever wondered why they use columns, rather than printing across the page? It is because it is easier to read - watch the eyes, they move downwards. This is why the columns are about two inches wide; any wider and the eyes will start skipping left to right as well as top to bottom (and they'll get tired and stop reading sooner..).

 

If you count the number of words across the column, you probably will not be surprised to find around seven words per line. The eye fills short term memory, waits until the brain has processed it, and then moves on.

Another point about eye movement: in computer programs, most of the information is towards the left of the page, so the eyes look more towards the left, hoping to be able to take in the whole line without a horizontal skip. They only flash over to the right to pick up the odd information that has strayed in that direction. The result is that you are more likely to miss things on the right than on the left.

 

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