The effects of pre-reading relevance instructions and individual interest on learning outcomes and curiosity
Johnson, Danielle Ruth
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Epistemic curiosity is a drive that increases arousal and motivates epistemic behavior such as question asking and continued information seeking. According to the knowledge-gap model of curiosity, epistemic curiosity is aroused when a person acknowledges a gap between what they know and what they would like to know. Presenting questions to an individual is theorized to prompt the creation of such knowledge-gaps. In the reading comprehension literature, these questions are called pre-reading relevance instructions. Another variable thought to increase continued epistemic behavior is individual interest. This study aimed to replicate past research by exploring how pre-reading relevance instructions, intended to highlight relevant information, affected reading time and recall. Additionally, it extends past research by examining how pre-reading questions affect further question asking and video watching behavior, and by looking at the effects of individual topic interest on these relationships. One hundred and six students from a Midwest university (41 men and 66 women) read passages about walkingstick insects and were then asked to recall specific and general information about each passage. Participants were also asked if they had additional questions on the subject matter and were given the opportunity to view videos related to the topic. Before reading, participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. In two of these conditions participants received pre-reading relevance instructions and in the final condition participants received general reading instructions. Results for recall were only partially consistent with past research on the effects of relevance instructions. Specifically, in one of the relevance instruction conditions, pre-reading instructions facilitated cued recall. In the other relevance instruction condition, pre-reading instructions facilitated free recall. That is, relevance instructions facilitated cued recall for one passage, but not for the other. Pre-reading relevance instructions did not have any other effects on reading time, recall, or continued epistemic behavior. Individual interest in the domain of walkingsticks did not moderate these relationships. However, individual interest was correlated with continued epistemic behavior. Finally, the limitations and implications of the current research are discussed and ideas for future research are proposed.