Reading on electronic devices may interfere with science reading comprehension

Dec. 6, 2017

People who often read on electronic devices may have a difficult time understanding scientific concepts, according to a team of researchers. They suggest that this finding, among others in the study, could also offer insights on how reading a scientific text differs from casual reading.

In a study, a group of adult readers who frequently used electronic devices were significantly less successful on a reading comprehension test after reading several scientific articles compared to those who used those devices less frequently, said Ping Li, professor of psychology and associate director of the Institute for CyberScience, Penn State.

“The more time the participants reported on using e-devices per day—for instance, reading texts on their iPhone, watching TV, playing internet games, texting, or reading an eBook—the less well they did when they tried to understand scientific texts,” said Li.

Li said the way people read on electronic devices may encourage them to pick up only bits and pieces of information from the material, while the comprehension of scientific information requires a more holistic approach to reading where the reader incorporates the information in a relational and structured way.

Reading science articles is different from reading narratives, as well, according to the researchers, who released their findings in the journal Reading and Writing.

The research could help both students who need to read science articles, as well as scientists who want to make their information more accessible and readable, said Li.

In future research, the researchers will use brain imaging tools to determine what areas of the brain are engaged while reading science texts and whether disengagement of these areas means a failure to understand, according to Li.

The researchers recruited 403 participants through Amazon Mechanical Turk to read eight different scientific articles, which were similar to articles found in a science text book that covered topics such as electrical circuits, permutation, GPS, Mars, and supertankers. The participants read through the articles, which were about 300 words each, or 30 sentences in length, sentence by sentence, at their own pace.

In another study, 107 participants were recruited to read the whole paragraph at once.

After reading each article, they were asked to answer 10 multiple choice questions about the article. Participants were also asked to sort key terms from the article into groups.

Penn State News has the full story

Sponsored Recommendations

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...

Spotlight on Artificial Intelligence

Unlock the potential of AI in our latest series. Discover how AI is revolutionizing clinical decision support, improving workflow efficiency, and transforming medical documentation...

Beyond the VPN: Zero Trust Access for a Healthcare Hybrid Work Environment

This whitepaper explores how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures secure, least privileged access to applications, meeting regulatory requirements and enhancing user...

Enhancing Remote Radiology: How Zero Trust Access Revolutionizes Healthcare Connectivity

This content details how a cloud-enabled zero trust architecture ensures high performance, compliance, and scalability, overcoming the limitations of traditional VPN solutions...