Executive Control Processes in Reading

By Bruce K. Britton; Shawn M. Glynn | Go to book overview

Gould ( 1981) has commented on the potential of an audio rather than a visual message being received; but, as Nickerson ( 1984) pointed out, advances in technology highlight how much more we need to know about the cognitive consequences of different forms of information display, particularly the consequences for subsequent ease of manipulating the information.

In terms of more mundane options available with present technology, factors of economics and expediency may dictate whether the reader is shown a table or a graph. In principle, the readers of a computer-based text could be given the option of selectively transforming the data, in whole or in part, in any way they chose. In this sense, familiarity with the options available to them as writers is reflected in the new demands that people will make as readers. Providing material in a form that facilitates such transformations by readers is a new skill that writers may need to acquire. Similarly, before readers can exercise their new freedom adequately, they may need to develop new, and very different, executive processes from those that are currently within the repertoire of the skilled reader of paper-based materials.

Throughout this chapter, whether discussing the control of reading or of writing processes, very little has been said about the processes of comprehension. This omission was deliberate. Comprehension processes are of great importance, but they have been the almost exclusive focus of much of the research on reading. As Black and Sebrechts ( 1981) have pointed out, one advantage of applied research is that it leads to new and broader paradigms. The present intention was to emphasize that there are other executive control processes that are also important; strategies and tactics that operate at a higher, more global level than the comprehension of words, sentences, or paragraphs; executive strategies within which the processes of comprehension are nested. Of course, readers need to be able to understand what they read, and writers need to be able to generate written information that can be understood. The desirability of studying such processes is hardly contentious. But in this chapter we have tried to show that more than this is needed. There is little advantage in knowing that readers can understand the information, if in practice they cannot find it. Consideration of the problems of reading and writing for electronic journals serves to emphasize the contribution of these other executive control processes to the activities of reading and writing.


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to thank Ann Lickorish for her contribution to the studies reported here, and also 1 express my gratitude to both Ann and Audrey Hull for their

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