Effects of Differing Proportions and Locations of Difficult Vocabulary on Text Comprehension. Technical Report No. 202

TitleEffects of Differing Proportions and Locations of Difficult Vocabulary on Text Comprehension. Technical Report No. 202
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Publication TypeMiscellaneous
Year of Publication1981
AuthorsFreebody, P., & Anderson R. C.
KeywordsReading Strategies
AbstractTwo experiments assessed the effect of vocabulary difficulty on three measures of text comprehension–free recall, summary recall, and sentence recognition. In the first experiment, the effect of differing proportions of rare-word substitutions were examined in 79 sixth grade students. It was found that a high rate of difficult vocabulary (one substance word in three) was required before reliable effects on comprehension were evident. In the second experiment, difficult vocabulary was placed in important text elements in one form of the passages, and in unimportant elements of another form of the passages that 71 sixth grade students read. These two forms were contrasted with easy vocabulary forms in their effects on three comprehension measures (total recall, summarization, and sentence recognition). Only on the summary measure was there an overall effect for difficult vocabulary in important elements. These experimental results may be explained by the "minimum effort principle" in reading. That is, a reader will avoid deep processing of difficult or unfamiliar words as much as possible, without loss of the main themes of the passage being read. The "minimum effort principle" also would predict that the presence of difficult words in important propositions would result in substantial losses at the point of comprehension. (RL)
URLhttp://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED201992