Summer Reprise Series #4: Oh, how I love to read [select one option] (a book on paper) (an ebook)!
First published January 20, 2015
Looks like the real deal, right?
I decided to see how research actually supported this claim.
So I followed the link:
What I found was a listing of pseudo science claims with no link to the actual study referred to throughout the article.
So, I followed this link to see if I could get actual data.
Again, there was no link to the study mentioned. I did find what was provided as the basic study design:
The study, presented in Italy at a conference last month and set to be published as a paper, gave 50 readers the same short story by Elizabeth George to read. Half read the 28-page story on a Kindle, and half in a paperback, with readers then tested on aspects of the story including objects, characters and settings.
The study is small, and the author of this post did use this as a tagline of the title: Research suggests [emphasis mine] that recall of plot after using an e-reader is poorer than with traditional books.
Since I like the use of “suggests” rather than proves, I followed yet another link to a website listing one of the researchers cited—turns out the researcher has published lots of articles.
I rummaged through the papers listed, and I thought I found the one referenced in the article… Here’s the abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of reading medium and a paratext manipulation on aspects of narrative engagement. In a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: fiction vs. nonfiction) between-subjects factorial design, the study combined state oriented measures of narrative engagement and a newly developed measure of interface interference. Results indicated that, independently of prior experience with reading on electronic media, readers in the iPad condition reported dislocation within the text and awkwardness in handling their medium. Also, iPad readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were less likely to report narrative coherence and transportation, while booklet readers who believed they were reading nonfiction were, if anything, more likely to report narrative coherence. Finally, booklet (but not iPad) readers were more likely to report a close association between transportation and empathy. Implications of these findings for cognitive and emotional engagement with textual narratives on paper and tablet are discussed.
Today, July 4, 2016, I found the paper: . It was published in 2014.
One hundred and forty-ﬁve participants (38 men, 107 women) were recruited on the campus of a large North-American university (52 were psychology undergraduate students who participated for partial course credit; the remaining 93 were volunteers who participated for compensation).
All participants were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in a 2 (medium: booklet vs. iPad) by 2 (paratext: ﬁction vs. nonﬁction) between-subjects factorial design.
Participants were told that they were going to read a short text and then answer some questions. They were also asked to start a stopwatch when they started reading, and to stop it when they had ﬁnished. The participants’ task was not time-constrained, and they were told that they could go back and forth in the text as they wished. Ten participants in all conditions read the same short narrative text before completing a series of questionnaires, including (1) a state oriented adaptation of Busselle and Bilandzic’s Narrative Engagement Scale (2009); (2) a questionnaire (created speciﬁcally for this experiment) assessing Interface Interference; and(3) a series of items assessing prior experience with electronic media, such as an iPad or similar tablet technologies. We also included questions about participants’ estimated reading time and estimated text length, as well as a set of word and sentence recognition tasks and questions measuring inference-based comprehension.
- If this is the paper referred to in the original blog post, the reported population of test subjects does not match.
- I’m not sure why only 40 of the 145 participants completed all the procedural steps.
- The discussion reports that it appears that from this study that some aspects of reading comprehension and cognition may be affected by the media format used for reading.
- Some of the disparity in comprehension and other targeted aspects of engagement were dependent on whether subjects thought they were reading fiction—the largest differences in comprehension were in non-fiction reader groups.
- More discussion indicates concern about the future of “hypertext literature” as a means of continuing the reading of fictional text. I did not find much data that supports that concern.
Two “takeaways” from my experience:
1. Just because a posting implies (or even states) that something is
supported by science, that doesn’t mean it is.
- While there might be support for the premise/claim, there might only be a vague reference to some undescribed “research.”
- Legitimate researchers will never claim proof of a hypothesis.
- Data supports or refutes ideas.
- Proof is a word that strikes fear into the heart of a researcher.
A single experiment or study that does not support a hypothesis disproves it.
Overall, the claim in the tweet was loosely based on data. However, after spending nearly 40 years working with high school and college students, I can say that anecdotal evidence supports that,
- “back in the day,” a classroom of students working from printed books were more focused, more often, than in later years.
More such observational data implies to me that
- the most noticeable difference in students of today than in yesteryear is today’s students exhibit a decrease in desire to interact with other students directly as their predecessors.
I cannot provide empirical data in support of either of the above comments. However, I do know that, for a fact, my teaching style changed over time in response to changes I noticed in students.
For me, these are the three bottom lines:
Reading is an excellent way to embed linear thinking patterns into a brain.
Print or ebook, reading is a good thing!
Next blog: It doesn’t matter what you write… PRO
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