Ph.D Thesis

Ph.D StudentSidi Yael
SubjectOn the Role of Medium, Computer Screen vs. Paper, as a
Cue for Processing Depth
DepartmentDepartment of Industrial Engineering and Management
Supervisor ASSOCIATE PROF. Rakefet Ackerman
Full Thesis textFull thesis text - English Version


Studies inspired by the metacognitive approach have found screen inferiority in performance and monitoring when learning lengthy texts. However, some studies report evidence for equivalent performance for screen compared to paper. The present study aimed to illuminate the conditions under which screen inferiority emerges, proposing an interaction between the media and task-design cues for processing depth. To negate the technological challenges that accompany lengthy reading on screen, brief yet highly challenging problems were used throughout the study, maintaining high cognitive requirements. The hypothesis was that people tend to engage in shallower processing on screen compared to paper, regardless of text length, when task characteristics hint at the legitimacy of such processing. Thus, in Experiment 1, brief problems were solved either under a loose time frame or under time pressure. Time pressure has been found to associate with compromising on one's goal, and thus used here as a cue that legitimates shallower processing. As expected, time pressure resulted in screen inferiority with lower success and higher overconfidence for screen compared to paper. Notably, a loose time frame revealed equivalent outcomes for screen and paper, thus supporting an interaction between the media and time frame, beyond technological factors.

As time pressure was also associated in the literature with cognitive load, this construct may be an alternative explanation to the explanation of cues that legitimate shallow processing. In Experiment 2 I aimed to generalize Experiment 1’s findings to a different task-design cue that legitimates shallow processing but does not the impose extraneous cognitive load as time pressure. In this experiment, task importance was manipulated by requiring participants to solve the problems used in Experiment 1 as a preliminary practice phase, and then solve near-transfer problems that were expected to be perceived as the main task. This framing manipulation, which was expected to have a more pronounced effect on screen, was expected to cue for legitimacy for shallower processing on the initial problems but not for the transfer problems. Indeed, task importance revealed screen inferiority for the initial problems, with no differences between the media for the transfer problems.

In Experiment 3, I sought to examine whether these effects remain even when the reading comprehension component is eliminated. Participants solved problems including only three isolated words, with or without time pressure. Indeed, screen inferiority in monitoring was evident in this task as well under time pressure, but not under a loose time frame.

Finally, Experiment 4 examined further boundary conditions, by using another task-design cue of disfluency to encourage deeper processing while cutting down the length of the entire task . The susceptibility of metacognitive processes to task-design cues on screen but not on paper was evident in this experiment as well.

Overall, the findings suggest that the medium provides a contextual cue for the recruitment of mental effort under specific task-design cues for processing depth. The study makes important contributions to the developing meta-reasoning research domain and offers a novel outlook on external factors affecting metacognitive processing in computerized learning and testing environments.