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IES Grant

Title: Lapses In Meta-Cognition During Reading: Understanding Comprehension Failure
Center: NCER Year: 2003
Principal Investigator: Reichle, Erik Awardee: University of Pittsburgh
Program: Cognition and Student Learning      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $690,569
Type: Exploration Award Number: R305H030235

Co-Principal Investigator: Jonathan Schooler

Virtually everyone has occasionally had the experience in reading of "zoning out", that is, of having their eyes continue to move across the page while their mind is elsewhere. Little research has directly examined the role that such "zoning out" experiences play in reading comprehension, and whether whatever negative consequences this experience leads to might be addressed by some sort of instructional guidance. The purpose of this project is to refine and validate a recently developed theoretical perspective for investigating zoning out during reading, and study the pedagogical implications of these occurrences.

The researchers are carrying out a three phase project with a series of studies in each phase, with undergraduate students as the subjects of the studies. In the first phase, the researchers are studying how to induce and measure zoning out in laboratory settings: They are examining what text materials increase the frequency of zoning out; whether zoning out leads to comprehension failure; and whether indirect measures, including changes in eye movements during reading (as measured by an eye-tracking device) and alterations in brain activity (as measured by an electroencephalograph (EEG)) can be used to measure zoning out as well as self-reporting or questioning by an observer. In the second phase of the project, the researchers are carrying out studies of various cognitive factors associated with zoning out, including the role of the subject's lack of self-awareness while zoning out, their proneness to distraction, and their working memory capacity. In the third phase of the project, the researchers are exploring the pedagogical implications of their findings by studying whether or not mindful reading techniques or practice in the use of attention reduce zoning out, and whether the frequency of students' zoning out serves to predict poorer performance in college.

Related IES Projects: Mind-Wandering During Reading (R305A110277)


Book chapter

Reichle, E.D., Pollatsek, A., and Rayner, K. (2007). Modeling the Effects of Lexical Ambiguity on Eye Movements During Reading. In R.P.G. Van Gompel, M.F. Fischer, W.S. Murray, and R.L. Hill (Eds.), Eye Movements: A Window on Mind and Brain (pp. 271–292). Oxford: Elsevier.

Schooler, J.W., Reichle, E.D., and Halpern, D.V. (2004). Zoning Out While Reading: Evidence for Dissociations Between Experience and Metaconsciousness. In D.T. Levin (Ed.), Thinking and Seeing: Visual Metacognition in Adults and Children (pp. 203–226). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Hart, R.E., and Schooler, J.W. (2006). Increasing Belief in the Experience of an Invasive Procedure That Never Happened: The Role of Plausibility and Schematicity. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 20(5): 661–669.

Mooneyham, B.W., and Schooler, J.W. (2013). The Costs and Benefits of Mind-Wandering: A Review. Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67(1): 11–18.

Pollatsek, A., Reichle, E.D., and Rayner, K. (2006). Tests of the E-Z Reader Model: Exploring the Interface Between Cognition and Eye-Movement Control. Cognitive Psychology, 52(1): 1–56.

Pollatsek, A., Reichle, E.D., and Rayner, K. (2006). Serial Processing is Consistent With the Time Course of Linguistic Information Extraction From Consecutive Words During Eye Fixations in Reading: A Response to Inhoff, Eiter, and Radach (2005). Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32(6): 1485–1489.

Reichle, E.D., Reineberg, A.E., and Schooler, J.W. (2010). Eye Movements During Mindless Reading. Psychological Science, 21(9): 1300–1310.

Schooler, J.W., Smallwood, J., Christoff, K., Handy, T.C., Reichle, E.D., and Sayette, M.A. (2011). Meta-Awareness, Perceptual Decoupling and the Wandering Mind. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 15(7): 319–326.

Smallwood, J., and Schooler, J.W. (2006). The Restless Mind. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6): 946–958.

Smallwood, J., Beech, E.M., Schooler, J.W., and Handy, T.C. (2008). Going AWOL in the Brain—Mind Wandering Reduces Cortical Analysis of the Task Environment. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(3): 458–469.

Smallwood, J., Fishman, D.J., and Schooler, J.W. (2007). Counting the Cost of an Absent Mind: Mind-Wandering as an Unrecognized Influence on Educational Performance. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14: 230–236.

Smallwood, J., McSpadden, M., and Schooler, J.W. (2007). The Lights are on but no One's Home: Meta-Awareness and the Decoupling of Attention When the Mind Wanders. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 14(3): 527–533.

Smallwood, J., McSpadden, M., Luus, B., and Schooler, J.W. (2008). Segmenting the Stream of Consciousness: The Psychological Correlates of Temporal Structures in the Time Series Data of a Continuous Performance Task. Brain and Cognition, 66(1): 50–56.


Smith, R., Keramatian, K., Smallwood, J., Schooler, J.W., Luus, B., and Christoff, K. (2006). Mind-Wandering With and Without Awareness: An fMRI Study of Spontaneous Thought Processes. In R. Sun and N. Miyake (Eds.),  Proceedings of the Twenty-Eighth Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 804–809). Vancouver, Canada: Cognitive Science Society.