It’s Hard to Read Online

So old people are right. It turns out readers don’t learn information very well when they view it on computer screens. According to an article by Jill Laster in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

A study at Arizona State University has found that students had lower reading comprehension of scrolling online material than they did of print-like versions.

It is harder to keep track of where information is located within an online document versus the more-apparent page markers in a print-style text, said Christopher A. Sanchez, a co-author of the study. He is an assistant professor of applied psychology at Arizona State.

Basically, it turns out it’s hard to deal with the scrolling because the reader’s eyes move about.

As Sanchez explains:

“What it could do is give us recognition of how to better design materials so all people learn well, so we don’t have this group of low-working-memory-capacity individuals who are behind the curve and are for some reason failing to learn when this material is in this scrolling form,” he said.

Um, print it out?

The study, “To Scroll or Not to Scroll: Scrolling, Working Memory Capacity, and Comprehending Complex Texts” was published in the October, 2009 issue of the journal Human Factors.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer