Viewers can keep up with fast subtitles: Evidence from eye movements

Agnieszka Szarkowska, Olivia Gerber-Morón

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

© 2018 Szarkowska, Gerber-Morón. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. People watch subtitled audiovisual materials more than ever before. With the proliferation of subtitled content, we are also witnessing an increase in subtitle speeds. However, there is an ongoing controversy about what optimum subtitle speeds should be. This study looks into whether viewers can keep up with increasingly fast subtitles and whether the way people cope with subtitled content depends on their familiarity with subtitling and on their knowledge of the language of the film soundtrack. We tested 74 English, Polish and Spanish viewers watching films subtitled at different speeds (12, 16 and 20 characters per second). The films were either in Hungarian, a language unknown to the participants (Experiment 1), or in English (Experiment 2). We measured viewers’ comprehension, self-reported cognitive load, scene and subtitle recognition, preferences and enjoyment. By analyzing people’s eye gaze, we were able to discover that most viewers could read the subtitles as well as follow the images, coping well even with fast subtitle speeds. Slow subtitles triggered more rereading, particularly in English clips, causing more frustration and less enjoyment. Faster subtitles with unreduced text were preferred in the case of English videos, and slower subtitles with text edited down in Hungarian videos. The results provide empirical grounds for revisiting current subtitling practices to enable more efficient processing of subtitled videos for viewers.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0199331
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume13
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018

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