Mindless Reading

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Science  13 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5993, pp. 731
DOI: 10.1126/science.329.5993.731-c

Having gotten this far, do you remember what you read just a minute ago? Or did your eyes scan the previous five or six sentences without any of that information having been absorbed? And if you did zone out, were you aware of having done so? Reichle et al. have studied precisely this kind of behavior by developing a protocol for interrogating subjects who were reading Sense and Sensibility. One theoretical framework posits that a meta-processor oversees cognitive components that support reading (including oculomotor systems and lexical lookup) and also a default or task-decoupled network that mediates mind wandering. The authors found that people were less likely to fixate for longer durations and that their eye movements were more sensitive to parameters such as word length and frequency when they were reading attentively. On the other hand, when people were reading mindlessly, their awareness of having become decoupled from the text surfaced only after a few minutes.

Psychol. Sci. 21, 10.1177/0956797610378686 (2010).

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