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Hochhauser: How Do Our Readers Really Think, Understand, and Decide-- Despite What They Know?


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Hochhauser: How Do Our Readers Really Think, Understand, and Decide-- Despite What They Know?

  1. 1. How Do Our Readers Really Think, Understand, and Decide— Despite What They Know? Mark Hochhauser, Ph.D. email: PLAIN2013 9th Conference and 20th Anniversary of Plain Language Association International Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada October 2013
  2. 2. Writing, reading, judging and deciding are neurobiological processes: They take place in different parts of the brain So give some thought to how a reader’s brain actually processes what your brain writes.
  3. 3. Plain language benefits some, not all Text comprehension studies 1. “…word knowledge is critical for good comprehension. Vocabulary is the single best predictor of comprehension ability.” 2. “…a reader needs to know the meanings of 90 percent of the individual words contained within a text in order to comprehend it.”
  4. 4. 3. Readers need to understand about 98% of the vocabulary for adequate text comprehension • Vocabulary did not strongly correlate with language comprehension or verbal fluency in adults with low literacy. • Low literacy adults haven’t made the shift from word recognition to language comprehension.
  5. 5. All readers are not the same Reading, comprehension and cognition are affected by: 1) Aging brain; Learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder 2) How reading comprehension is measured and on whom
  6. 6. 3) Health problems • • • • • • • • • • adult coronary syndrome medical inpatient experience chemotherapy (chemobrain) metabolic syndrome common medical conditions type II diabetes drug addiction traumatic brain injury menopausal transition vascular risk factors
  7. 7. Five Judgment and Decision Making Strategies “Law of least effort”: If there are several ways to achieve the same goal, readers will eventually take the least demanding route.
  8. 8. Less demanding routes to a decision • Two Thinking Systems • Information Overload • Intuition • Heuristics • Framing
  9. 9. 1. Thinking strategies: Two Thinking Systems Logical/Analytical Emotion/Intuition (Good?) (Bad?) Decisions are emotional first; logical second.
  10. 10. Logical/Analytical Emotion/Intuition a) Slow decisions a) Fast decisions b) Controlled b) Automatic c) Much effort c) No effort d) Complex analysis d) Habitual e) Sensible and logical e) Emotional memories; feelings f) Delayed decisions f) Immediate
  11. 11. 2. Information Overload How much information can a reader store in “working memory?” • Early research: 7, + 2 or about 5 – 9 items • Later research: 3 – 5 items • More recent: 4-7, depending on age: Peaks around age 25 – 35
  12. 12. A reader’s brain can only process a limited amount of information; especially in the aging brain If cognitively overloaded, readers must use other ways to reach a conclusion or make a decision.
  13. 13. 3. Intuition: Knowledge without reasoning Direct perception of truth or fact independent of any reasoning process Involves selective focus on specific aspects of an experience • “Knowing without awareness”—automatically (unconsciously) not cognitively (consciously) • “Thin slicing”—”the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on narrow slices of experience”
  14. 14. 4. Heuristic strategies: simplify complex choices by finding adequate answers to difficult questions How to pick a Medicare supplemental health plan: a) Analyze all of the online and printed information available to compare plans—a complicated and time consuming task; requires good research skills
  15. 15. b) Affect heuristic: eliminate plan “M” because previous bad experience = painful emotions and memory c) Effort heuristic: More value given to work that takes more time, especially if value is ambiguous.
  16. 16. 5. Psychological Framing Framing: using different ways to present the same information • Beef is 75% lean (a healthy gain) • Beef is 25% fat (an unhealthy loss) They mean the same, but are interpreted differently.
  17. 17. Conclusions 1. Plain language may make information more comprehensible for some readers, but not all. 2. There are limits to how much information a reader’s brain can remember and process. 3. The reader’s brain will come with its own ways to make decisions.
  18. 18. References Fletcher, J.M. (2006) Measuring Reading Comprehension. Scientific Studies of Reading, 10(3), 323-330. Gladwell, M. (2002) The Tipping Point. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co. Hochhauser, M. (2012) Can sick patients understand informed consent? SoCRA Source, 74, 72-74. Kahneman, D, (2003) A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. American Psychologist, 58(9) , 697-720. Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, fast and slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Klingberg, T. (2009) The Overflowing Brain. Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory. New York: Oxford University Press. Krugera, J., Wirtza, D., et al. (2004) The Effort Heuristic. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 40(1), 91-98.
  19. 19. Landi, N. (2010) An examination of the relationship between reading comprehension, higher-level and lower-level reading sub-skills in adults. Reading and Writing, July 1: 23(6), 701-717. Levin, I.P. & Gaeth, G.J. (1988) How consumers are affected by the framing of attribute information before and after consuming the product. Journal of Consumer Research, 15, 374-378. Mellard, D.F., Fall,, D. & Woods, K.L. (2010) A path analysis of reading comprehension for adults with low literacy. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 43(2), 154-165. Myers, D. (2002) Intuition: Its Powers and Perils. New Haven: Yale University Press. Nation, I.S.P. (2006) How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? The Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(1), 59-82. Perfetti, C. & Adlof, S. (2012) Reading Comprehension: A Conceptual Framework from Word Meaning to Text Meaning. In Sabatini, J.P., Albro, E. & O’Reilly, T. (2012) Measuring Up: Advances in How We Assess Reading Ability. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing.
  20. 20. Schmitt, N., Jiang, X. & Grabe, W. (2011) The Percentage of Words Known in a Text and Reading Comprehension. The Modern Language Journal, 95, 26-43 Slovic, P., Finucane, M., Peters, E. & MacGregor, D.G. (2002) The Affect Heuristic. In Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., Kahneman, D., eds. Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment. Boston, MA: Cambridge University Press. Slovic, P., Finucane, M.L., Peters, E., et al. (2003) Risk as analysis and risk as feelings: Some thoughts about affect, reason, risk and rationality. Paper presented at the National Cancer Institute Workshop on Conceptualizing and Measuring Risk Perceptions, Washington, DC. Weber, M.T., Mapstone, M., Staskiewicz, J., et al. (2012) Reconciling subjective memory complaints with objective memory performance in the menopausal transition. Menopause, (19(7), 735-741.