E-devices may interfere with science reading comprehensionPosted on December 6, 2017
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — 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. “There are a lot of positive uses for electronic devices and I’m an advocate of digital learning, but when it comes to understanding of science concepts through reading, our take is that it’s not helpful.”
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.
“This is sort of speculation, because, so far, this is only a correlation — When you are writing a text on a smartphone, for example, you use very short sentences and you abbreviate a lot, so it’s fragmented,” said Li. “When you’re reading such a text, you’re getting bits of information here and there and not always trying to connect the material. And I think that might be the main difference, when you’re reading expository scientific texts you need to be connecting and integrating the information.”
Reading science articles is different from reading narratives, as well, according to the researchers, who released their findings in the journal Reading and Writing.
“In a lot of ways, reading a science text is different from reading a story,” said Li. “In a story, let’s say you’re reading ‘Harry Potter,’ you have characters, there’s a plot, there’s an evolving story line. And that’s why we’re interested in this. You can easily get engrossed in a narrative, but in reading scientific texts, you are trying to understand new or unfamiliar concepts and how they are related — and that’s a very different process.”
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, who worked with Jake Follmer, a former doctoral student in educational psychology; Shin-Yi Fang, postdoctoral scholar in psychology; Roy B. Clariana, professor of education; and Bonnie J. F. Meyer, professor of educational psychology, all of Penn State.
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.
“The sorting tasks are designed to elicit their knowledge structure developed after readers finished reading science texts,” said Li. “And this method allows us to see if different people may get different mental relations of the science concepts or other concepts.”
The National Science Foundation supported this work.
This article originally appeared on Penn State News. Read the original.
- Featured Researcher: Nick Tusay
- Multi-institutional team to use AI to evaluate social, behavioral science claims
- NSF invests in cyberinfrastructure institute to harness cosmic data
- Center for Immersive Experiences set to debut, serving researchers and students
- Distant Suns, Distant Worlds
- CyberScience Seminar: Researcher to discuss how AI can help people avoid adverse drug interactions
- AI could offer warnings about serious side effects of drug-drug interactions
- Taking RTKI drugs during radiotherapy may not aid survival, worsens side effects
- Cost-effective cloud research computing options now available for researchers
- Costs of natural disasters are increasing at the high end
- Model helps choose wind farm locations, predicts output
- Virus may jump species through ‘rock-and-roll’ motion with receptors
- Researchers seek to revolutionize catalyst design with machine learning
- Resilient Resumes team places third in Nittany AI Challenge
- ‘AI in Action’: Machine learning may help scientists explore deep sleep
- Clickbait Secrets Exposed! Humans and AI team up to improve clickbait detection
- Focusing computational power for more accurate, efficient weather forecasts
- How many Earth-like planets are around sun-like stars?
- Professor receives NSF grant to model cell disorder in heart
- SMH! Brains trained on e-devices may struggle to understand scientific info
- Whole genome sequencing may help officials get a handle on disease outbreaks
- New tool could reduce security analysts’ workloads by automating data triage
- Careful analysis of volcano’s plumbing system may give tips on pending eruptions
- Reducing farm greenhouse gas emissions may plant the seed for a cooler planet
- Using artificial intelligence to detect discrimination
- Four ways scholars say we can cut the chances of nasty satellite data surprises
- Game theory shows why stigmatization may not make sense in modern society
- Older adults can serve communities as engines of everyday innovation
- Pig-Pen effect: Mixing skin oil and ozone can produce a personal pollution cloud
- Researchers find genes that could help create more resilient chickens
- Despite dire predictions, levels of social support remain steady in the U.S.
- For many, friends and family, not doctors, serve as a gateway to opioid misuse
- New algorithm may help people store more pictures, share videos faster
- Head named for Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering
- Scientific evidence boosts action for activists, decreases action for scientists
- People explore options, then selectively represent good options to make difficult decisions
- Map reveals that lynching extended far beyond the deep South
- Gravitational forces in protoplanetary disks push super-Earths close to stars
- Supercomputer cluster donation helps turn high school class into climate science research lab
- Believing machines can out-do people may fuel acceptance of self-driving cars
- People more likely to trust machines than humans with their private info
- IBM donates system to Penn State to advance AI research
- ICS Seed Grants to power projects that use AI, machine learning for common good
- Penn State Berks team advances to MVP Phase of Nittany AI Challenge
- Creepy computers or people partners? Working to make AI that enhances humanity
- Sky is clearing for using AI to probe weather variability
- ‘AI will see you now’: Panel to discuss the AI revolution in health and medicine
- Privacy law scholars must address potential for nasty satellite data surprises
- Researchers take aim at hackers trying to attack high-value AI models
- Girls, economically disadvantaged less likely to get parental urging to study computers
- Seed grants awarded to projects using Twitter data
- Researchers find features that shape mechanical force during protein synthesis
- A peek at living room decor suggests how decorations vary around the world
- Interactive websites may cause antismoking messages to backfire
- Changing how government assesses risk may ease fallout from extreme financial events
- Algorithm aims to alert consumers before they use illicit online pharmacies
- Scientists tap AI betting agents to help solve research reproducibility concerns
- Search engine could help researchers scour internet for privacy documents