• Frequency effects on normal reading as early as 145 ms from start of fixation.
• Equally rapid non-lexical fixation location effects.
• Frequency effects, but not location effects were influenced by preview validity.
• Crucial role of parafoveal processing in enabling direct lexical control.
• Implications for models of eye-movement control are discussed.
Participants’ eye movements were monitored in an experiment that manipulated the frequency of target words (high vs. low) as well as their availability for parafoveal processing during fixations on the pre-target word (valid vs. invalid preview). The influence of the word-frequency by preview validity manipulation on the distributions of first fixation duration was examined by using ex-Gaussian fitting as well as a novel survival analysis technique which provided precise estimates of the timing of the first discernible influence of word frequency on first fixation duration. Using this technique, we found a significant influence of word frequency on fixation duration in normal reading (valid preview) as early as 145 ms from the start of fixation. We also demonstrated an equally rapid non-lexical influence on first fixation duration as a function of initial landing position (location) on target words. The time-course of frequency effects, but not location effects was strongly influenced by preview validity, demonstrating the crucial role of parafoveal processing in enabling direct lexical control of reading fixation times. Implications for models of eye-movement control are discussed.