Examining readers’ mental representations of texts in reading comprehension: The influence of text availability on reading comprehension performance and visual memory



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This study aimed to examine the role of mental model formation by examining the effect of text availability on reading comprehension (RC) performance and visual memory in 7th and 8th grade students. Participants were given an RC test in which they answered multiple-choice questions and were subsequently given the text structure and asked to identify information relevant to answering the questions. Participants’ eye movements were monitored throughout. One purpose of this study was to examine text availability’s impact on RC performance (including accuracy and reading time). A second purpose of this study was to examine the effect of text availability on visual memory (i.e., the ability to identify supporting information in the text). Finally, this study investigated if reading achievement and working memory (WM) are related to the relationship between text availability and RC performance, and between text availability and visual memory, respectively. I found that without-text readers had longer initial reading times than with-text. Additionally, without-text participants were more accurate and precise in their identification of relevant textual information. Next, participants with higher reading achievement levels had faster reading times. Finally, participants with higher WM were more accurate in their visual memory. Unexpectedly, higher-WM participants also had slower times for locating information in the visual memory task. These findings indicate that students should focus on reading strategies that foster strong mental model formation, such as slowing down during the initial read of text. The results also clarify the roles of reading achievement and WM in mental model formation.



Reading comprehension, Text availability, Mental model