Effects of text structure on use of cognitive capacity during reading

Bruce K. Britton, Shawn M. Glynn, Bonnie J. Meyer, M. J. Penland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


The demand that text processing imposes on learners' cognitive capacity was measured with a secondary-task technique; the meaning of the textual materials was held constant while several structural (surface) variables were manipulated. Exp I (36 undergraduates) showed that text versions with simplified vocabulary and syntax (but equivalent content) required less cognitive capacity to process than standard versions. Exp II (96 Ss) revealed that the reduction in use of cognitive capacity was due primarily to syntactic factors. Exp III (72 Ss) demonstrated that texts containing signals about idea importance and relations required less cognitive capacity to process than texts with approximately the same propositional content but no such signals. Measures of total inspection time and content recall were also secured. In general, findings indicate that aspects of the surface structure of text made demands on Ss' cognitive processing capacity. (44 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Educational Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1982

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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