Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Effects of Domain Knowledge on Metacomprehension Accuracy

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Effects of Domain Knowledge on Metacomprehension Accuracy

Article excerpt

In the present research, we examined the relationship between readers' domain knowledge and their ability to judge their comprehension of novel domain-related material. Participants with varying degrees of baseball knowledge read five texts on baseball-related topics and five texts on non-baseball-related topics, predicted their performance, and completed tests for each text. Baseball knowledge was positively related to absolute accuracy within the baseball domain but was unrelated to relative accuracy within the baseball domain. Also, the readers showed a general underconfidence bias, but the bias was less extreme for higher knowledge readers. The results challenge common assumptions that experts' metacognitive judgments are less accurate than novices'. Results involving topic familiarity ratings and a no-reading control group suggest that higher knowledge readers are not more likely to ignore text-specific cues in favor of a domain familiarity heuristic, but they do appear to make more effective use of domain familiarity in predicting absolute performance levels.

A great deal of formal instruction occurs via reading, and the ability to accurately judge one's level of comprehension from reading-known as metacomprehension accuracy-has important consequences for learning from text (Maki & Berry, 1984; Wiley, Griffin, & Thiede, 2005; Winne & Hadwin, 1998). Metacomprehension accuracy can affect learning by contributing to whether one engages in effective study strategies and devotes one's limited attention to where it is most needed (Thiede, Anderson, & Therriault, 2003). Inaccurate metacomprehension can mean overlearning material that is already understood while neglecting other material. Several decades of research reveal that readers are generally poor at self-assessing what they have understood from a text, as is evidenced by low intraindividual correlations between predicted and actual test performance (e.g., Dunlosky & Lipko, 2007; Maki, 1998b; Thiede, Griffin, Wiley, & Redford, 2009). Furthermore, there is typically a great deal of variance around these low averages, with some readers showing near perfect accuracy and others showing the opposite (Griffin, Wiley, & Thiede, 2008; Thiede, Griffin, Wiley, & Anderson, in press). Identifying variables that distinguish readers with high and low accuracy could help explain and improve generally poor levels of accuracy.

One source of variance in metacomprehension accuracy could be domain expertise. Expertise positively predicts performance on many tasks, including text comprehension (e.g., Chi, Glaser, & Farr, 1988; Ericsson & Kintsch, 1995; Feltovich, Prietula, & Ericsson, 2006; Spilich, Vesonder, Chiesi, & Voss, 1979). Also, domain knowledge has been suggested to be positively related to awareness and control of cognitive activities and to engaging in more effective strategies during learning (Baker, 1989; Brown & DeLoache, 1978; Glaser & Chi, 1988; Schneider, 2002). If the effective use of study strategies depends partly on accurate comprehension monitoring, these findings might indirectly reflect a positive impact of expertise on metacomprehension accuracy. Interestingly, a prevailing assumption and explicit claim about metacomprehension accuracy and expertise is that they are negatively related (see Jacoby, Bjork, & Kelley, 1994). The conflict between this claim and the implications of the expertise literature warrants further investigation into the knowledge-metacomprehension relationship.

To begin to address this question, a basic model is outlined of the judgment process and its relation to observed metacomprehension accuracy, along with evidence that informs and supports the model. This is followed by a discussion of the various types and measures of metacomprehension and their relations to the issues raised by the model of judgments. The focus then turns to the empirical evidence for effects of domain knowledge, beginning with a review of prior research on individual differences in test performance (a proxy for knowledge) and their relation to metacomprehension accuracy, followed by an examination of the two studies that have more directly examined the expertise-metacomprehension relationship. …

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