Texts on Screens: When the Medium Matters for Comprehension.
Pablo Delgado, Ph.D.
Interdisciplinary Research Unit on Reading (ERI Lectura), University of Valencia, Spain.
Postdoctoral researcher. I am especially focused on differences between reading media (print vs. screen). I use several types of measures, such as eye-movements, mindwandering, meta-cognitive calibration, and reading comprehension. I also investigate multimodal learning (text vs. video) and sourcing when reading on the Internet (i.e., how, when and to what extent people pay attention to, evaluate, and use the sources of information).
Over the last decades, texts have been progressively and unstoppably moved to screens. It goes without saying that digital reading is ubiquitous today and that it occupies an ever-increasing portion of our reading time. Furthermore, during the current pandemic situation, online jobs and online education have dramatically increased. Since the first studies in this field, mainly focused on ergonomics, the research interest has turned towards the cognitive consequences of this change of the reading medium. In this talk, I will briefly review some of the most relevant hypotheses and research on the possible effects of the digital medium on text comprehension, with special focus on the shallowing hypothesis, which states that we read more superficially on screens. I will then show the findings from recent studies comparing in-print vs on-screen reading, especially those from recent empirical studies that we have conducted: a meta-analysis that empirically synthesized the research corpus on this issue over the past two decades, and several experimental studies. The results indicate that reading on screen seems to difficult comprehension by hindering depth of processing and attention, particularly under certain circumstances. Although the effect is small, it is relevant within the educational context. Lastly, I will discuss its educational implications.