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Order effects when reading multiple texts

WorkgroupMultiple Representations Lab
FundingPostdoc Network "Cognitive Conflicts During Media Use", IWM budget resources
Project description

When searching for information on the Internet, one often comes across different, often contradictory explanations for the same phenomenon. This project investigates how reading different explanations for the same natural phenomenon affects recall performance and how sequence effects influence recall performance. The results from this project are relevant wherever information retrieval plays a role, for example, in school or university.

The project’s starting point is the empirical finding that sequence effects can occur when reading multiple texts. In two empirical studies, in which participants read two texts with different explanations for the same natural phenomenon, a processing and memory advantage was found for the text read first. In the first study conducted, this effect was reversed when participants were explicitly told that the text read first was outdated. However, this finding could not be replicated in study 2.

The observed advantage for the text read first is reminiscent of a primacy effect or the continued influence effect. Here, too, the information received first has a strong influence on the subsequent performance of the participants. However, the effect is novel in that, to our knowledge, there have been no empirical studies observing this bias with longer, scientific explanations.

In an Internet search, the information received first could thus exert a strong influence, which cannot be corrected or overwritten by information received later, or only under certain conditions.

Follow-up studies are investigating measures that can be used to reduce this bias. For example, it is known that the presentation of pictures also influences recall performance. Therefore, picture presentation could lead to attenuation or cancellation of the effect. Another role could be played by the reading time that the study participants devote to the texts: Thus, the first text was usually read longer than the second text. If the reading time remained the same, the bias could therefore be eliminated.

  • Dr. Daniela Becker, Radboud University (Netherlands)


Dr. Anne Schüler Dr. Anne Schüler
Tel.: +49 7071 979-341