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A measure of individual differences in readers’ approaches to text and its relation to reading experience and reading comprehension

Abstract

Readers have different motivations and approaches to text that covers a range of topics and difficulty levels. We introduce the concept of readers’ approaches to text to establish a link between motivational and cognitive aspects of reading comprehension. Study 1 describes the development of a self-report measure of readers’ approaches to text with a community sample. An exploratory factor analysis revealed that The Readers’ Approaches to Text Questionnaire (TReAT-Q) had four subscales: (1) intrinsic goals, (2) extrinsic goals and strategies, (3) effort at understanding, and (4) avoidance of text difficulty. Aside from avoidance of text difficulty, these factors predicted adults’ reading experience above and beyond the related, but more general, measure of need for cognition. A confirmatory factor analysis on TReAT-Q in Study 2 revealed that all subscales except effort at understanding contributed to a readers’ approaches to text latent construct for college students. A subsequent structural equation model (SEM) evaluating a cognitive model of reading comprehension showed that college students’ TReAT-Q scores predicted reading comprehension through an indirect pathway, mediated by reading experience and vocabulary knowledge. Readers who enjoy reading and deploy reading strategies to meet a desired level of understanding tend to have more reading experiences. The SEM also demonstrated the mediating role of vocabulary knowledge in text comprehension by linking reading experience and reading comprehension. Extending beyond measures of motivation, TReAT-Q incorporates the positive and negative approaches readers have to texts, which is fundamental for assessing what readers gain from their reading experiences that assists reading comprehension.

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Notes

  1. A focus on vocabulary does not imply that reading experience enhances only vocabulary. Increased experience with more complex sentence structures, knowledge retrieval, comprehension monitoring, etc., are also strengthened by practice. Vocabulary not only drives comprehension directly, but it may serve as a proxy for the effects of other components.

  2. We also tested a five-factor solution, however one of the factors contained only three items, which is too sparse. Therefore, the four-factor solution was retained.

  3. Three additional SEMs were run, replacing the Approaches to Text latent factor with each TReAT-Q subscale as an indicator variable (except effort at understanding), and revealed similar indirect effects on Reading Comprehension via a serial mediation of Reading Experience and Vocabulary Knowledge. No direct effects of each TReAT-Q subscale on Reading Comprehension were significant.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Dr. Aidan Wright for insightful discussions reflected in this paper. We also thank Paula Pascual, Tania Vas, Allyson Distler, Shansa Gaddam, Kimberly Muth, and Lydia Chlpka for their help with data collection.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare that are relevant to the content of this article.

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Correspondence to Regina C. Calloway.

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Open Practices Statement

All questionnaires for the experiments can be found in the appendices. Vocabulary and comprehension measures can be purchased from their original manufactures. The present experiment was not preregistered. Analysis code for the reported results is available upon request. Data can be found at: https://osf.io/e7xpy/?view_only=0b3180a18cd94803a7c743096c95dd79.

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This research was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA. Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to the first author at 8223 Paint Branch Drive, College Park, MD 20740.

Appendices

Appendix A

Initial 87 Items Included in The Readers’ Approaches to text Questionnaire (TReAT-Q).

Prompt: This portion of the questionnaire focuses on your thoughts about reading. For each of the statements, please indicate to what extent the statement is characteristic of you. If the statement is extremely uncharacteristic of you please select "Strong disagreement"; if the statement is extremely characteristic of you (very much like you) please select "Strong agreement". Of course, a statement may be neither extremely uncharacteristic nor extremely characteristic of you; if so, please select one of the choices in the middle of the scale that describes the best fit. Please respond as honestly as possible.

Full original TReAT-Q and item factor loadings

Number Item Intrinsic goals Extrinsic goals and strategies Effort at understanding Avoidance of text difficulty
Reading Strategies (initial category label)
1 I try to keep track of characters’ goals and motives when I read. 0.14 0.26 0.35 0.06
2 When I read I usually skip words that I do not know.* – 0.05 – 0.11 0.32 0.39
3 If I really want to comprehend a book/article, I try to put myself in an environment that will help me do so (e.g., find a quiet place). 0.01 0.09 0.54 – 0.14
4 When I read for something important, I tend to underline or highlight sections, titles, concepts, and/or examples. 0.12 0.49 – 0.07 0
5 I often skim texts when I read for work/school.* – 0.18 0.03 0.15 0.51
6 If a text is difficult, I often re-read sections of the text. 0.14 – 0.05 0.67 – 0.23
7 When I’m reading for fun, I rarely look up a word I do not recognize.* 0.01 0.05 0.22 0.51
8 To tell whether I really understand something, I try explaining to myself what the author is trying to convey. 0.04 0.51 0.19 0.01
9 When I read, I frequently check to make sure I’m understanding the text. 0 0.39 0.36 – 0.08
10 When I don’t know words in a text, I often look them up. 0.07 0.18 0.4 0.25
11 I routinely make outlines to help me understand what I read. – 0.01 0.72 – 0.23 0.02
12 When I read, I typically take note of key words or concepts in each paragraph. – 0.1 0.67 0.05 0.05
13 I often make summaries of what I read. – 0.08 0.67 – 0.19 0.03
14 When I don’t know words in a text, I try to figure out the meaning based on surrounding information. 0.06 0.03 0.56 – 0.2
15 I tend to read more quickly when I read a difficult text.* – 0.17 – 0.34 0.48 0.21
16 I often skim when I do not need to know the content very well. – 0.01 0.02 0.09 0.58
17 When I’m having trouble understanding something, I read that section of the text more quickly.* – 0.14 – 0.37 0.47 0.37
18 If a text does not explain a concept clearly enough, I’ll look it up somewhere else. 0.09 – 0.07 0.48 – 0.03
19 I tend to re-read sections of a text more slowly/carefully than when I read them the first time. – 0.12 0.22 0.27 – 0.03
20 I often look up concepts I do not know. 0.04 0.19 0.62 0.11
21 I often highlight or underline words to follow an author’s line of thinking. 0.03 0.7 – 0.15 0.07
22 If I cannot guess what a word means based on its context, I will look it up. 0.21 0.04 0.33 0.2
23 I generally pay attention to details as much as general themes when I read. 0.22 0.19 0.41 0.07
24 For difficult concepts/texts, I try to visualize what is going on. 0.26 0.1 0.48 – 0.14
25 I re-read sections of the text if something does not make sense. 0.16 – 0.11 0.64 – 0.08
26 I try to sound out words that I don’t know. 0.12 0.2 0.27 – 0.01
27 I typically read at the same speed, regardless of my reading purpose.* – 0.23 – 0.12 0.05 – 0.05
Desire for Understanding (initial category label)
28 I find satisfaction in finishing a difficult text. 0.31 0.12 0.19 0.11
29 I’m usually more concerned about finishing a text than comprehending it.* – 0.08 – 0.28 0.58 0.28
30 I often try to understand the author’s point of view and his/her arguments. 0.09 0.22 0.49 0.08
31 I am confident I can understand difficult books or articles.† 0.25 0.16 0.29 0.18
32 Once I’ve started reading a story or article, I continue reading to find out its conclusion. 0.17 0.06 0.33 0.12
33 I’d rather read easy texts than difficult ones.* 0.04 0.14 – 0.07 0.75
34 I often think about what I’ve read even while engaging in other activities. 0.38 0.12 0.2 – 0.02
35 I generally enjoy explaining what I’ve read to a peer or co-worker. 0.33 0.44 0.1 0.03
36 I’d rather read a summary than spend effort understanding a long text.* 0.31 – 0.16 0.06 0.59
37 I typically learn new concepts through reading. 0.1 0.17 0.56 0.11
38 I like to discuss what I’ve read with others. 0.48 0.26 0.1 – 0.1
39 I compare different points of view when I read. – 0.03 0.54 0.18 0.16
40 When I read, I generally try to see how sentences are related to one another. 0.09 0.45 0.24 – 0.03
41 I read so I can understand how other people think. 0.06 0.49 0.2 0.09
42 When I read to find an answer to a specific question it’s enough for me that I find the right answer; I don’t care about the reason behind the answer.* – 0.09 – 0.02 0.44 0.43
43 I try to really understand a text, so I can form my own opinions about the content of the text. 0.14 0.13 0.69 0.03
44 I gain new insight on how to solve problems by reading. 0.05 0.33 0.47 0.1
45 Increasing my vocabulary knowledge through reading is important to me. 0.35 0.36 0.15 0.17
46 I generally do not like reading dense texts.* 0.15 0.16 – 0.16 0.73
47 I get frustrated when a text does not make sense. 0.05 – 0.12 0.22 0.54
48 Understanding what I read is part of the fun of reading. 0.53 0.03 0.34 0.07
49 For a lot of my reading, I’m not concerned with how well I understand.* – 0.02 – 0.25 0.51 0.36
50 I have a strong desire to understand what I’m reading when I read for fun. 0.4 – 0.02 0.4 0.06
51 I normally relate what I read to my life. 0.37 0.28 0.18 0.03
52 When I start reading a text, I feel obligated to finish it. 0.21 0.13 0.14 0.1
53 I like to read texts that don’t require much effort to figure out.* 0.04 0.17 0.04 0.60
54 I’d rather read short texts than long ones.* 0.27 0.04 – 0.13 0.57
55 When I read, I nearly always want to understand what I’ve read. 0.3 – 0.11 0.63 – 0.18
56 When I read stories, I like predicting what happens next. 0.36 0.27 0.02 0.03
57 I try to avoid situations where there is a high chance I will have to read a text carefully.* 0.28 – 0.21 0.17 0.51
Reading Goals (initial category label)
58 I read to learn more about a topic I’m unfamiliar with. – 0.13 0.09 0.68 0.01
59 I commonly read to keep up with current events. – 0.15 0.29 0.37 0.04
60 I often wish I had more time to read for pleasure. 0.64 0.01 0.11 – 0.08
61 One benefit of reading is that it can improve my vocabulary. 0.33 0.09 0.51 – 0.02
62 In comparison to other activities I do, it is not very important for me to read a lot.†* 0.42 – 0.06 0.2 0.3
63 I read to improve my work or university performance.† 0 0.53 0.2 0
64 It is important for me to read for fun, despite my other obligations. 0.74 0.05 – 0.02 0.13
65 I most often read to relax. 0.8 0.07 – 0.24 0.01
66 I usually only read when I have a lot of free time, like on vacations or long commutes.* 0.02 – 0.2 0.12 0.4
67 Reading helps me improve my work performance. 0.12 0.51 0.22 0.08
68 Reading is a necessary part of my job. 0 0.41 0.19 0.03
69 When I read, it is usually because I must for school/work.* 0.39 – 0.4 0.08 0.27
70 If I’m not reading for work/school, I would rather be entertained by a text than informed by it.* – 0.4 0.13 0.14 0.45
71 I read more texts outside of school/work than most of my peers. 0.43 0.23 – 0.02 0.28
72 I read so I can have informed conversations with peers/co-workers. – 0.06 0.64 0.13 – 0.01
73 One reason I like to read is that it allows me to exercise my imagination and creativity. 0.68 0.01 0.14 0.06
74 I read to study for exams or a job promotion. – 0.15 0.57 0.01 – 0.1
75 One reason I read is to improve my reasoning skills. 0.08 0.61 0.14 0.11
76 I read to help me fall asleep.* – 0.33 – 0.08 0.38 0.05
77 I think it is important to be a good reader for my future/current career.† 0.24 0.39 0.16 – 0.08
78 I like learning new information when I read. 0.18 0.06 0.60 0.03
79 I read so I can show others that I’m knowledgeable about a topic. 0.03 0.56 0.07 – 0.05
80 Reading is not my idea of fun.* 0.62 – 0.2 0.06 0.32
81 I tend to not read texts if there is an option to watch a movie or video on the topic instead.* 0.45 – 0.18 0.06 0.53
82 I frequently read to learn new information about topics that interest me.† 0.06 0.12 0.54 0.18
83 The texts I read for leisure have had a significant impact on my way of thinking. 0.32 0.24 0.19 0.09
84 I read to improve my day-to-day life. 0.39 0.42 0.06 0.06
85 I read because I enjoy it. 0.79 – 0.07 0.15 0.03
86 I feel that it is important to read regularly. 0.69 0.02 0.19 0.09
87 I usually read to learn new skills (e.g., learn a recipe, how to build something). 0.01 0.35 0.23 – 0.14
  1. Italic headings denote original conceptualization of factors related to the initial TReAT-Q and column headings reflect factors revealed by the principal axis factor (PAF) analysis.† indicates item was adapted from the Adult Reading Motivation Survey (Schutte & Malouff, 2007). Items in bold have factor loadings > 0.5. Items with an asterisk were reverse scaled.

Appendix B

Need for Cognition Questionnaire (Cacioppo et al., 1984)

Prompt: For each of the statements, please indicate to what extent the statement is characteristic of you. If the statement is extremely uncharacteristic of you please select "Strong disagreement"; if the statement is extremely characteristic of you (very much like you) please select "Strong agreement". Of course, a statement may be neither extremely uncharacteristic nor extremely characteristic of you; if so, please select one of the choices in the middle of the scale that describes the best fit. Please respond as honestly as possible.

  1. 1.

    I would prefer complex to simple problems.

  2. 2.

    I like to have the responsibility of handling a situation that requires a lot of thinking.

  3. 3.

    Thinking is not my idea of fun. *

  4. 4.

    I would rather do something that requires little thought than something that is sure to challenge my thinking abilities. *

  5. 5.

    I try to anticipate and avoid situations where there is likely a chance I will have to think in depth about something. *

  6. 6.

    I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours.

  7. 7.

    I only think as hard as I have to. *

  8. 8.

    I prefer to think about small, daily projects to long-term ones. *

  9. 9.

    I like tasks that require little thought once I’ve learned them. *

  10. 10.

    The idea of relying on thought to make my way to the top appeals to me.

  11. 11.

    I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems.

  12. 12.

    Learning new ways to think doesn’t excite me very much. *

  13. 13.

    I prefer my life to be filled with puzzles that I must solve.

  14. 14.

    The notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me.

  15. 15.

    I would prefer a task that is intellectual, difficult, and important to one that is somewhat important but does not require much thought.

  16. 16.

    I feel relief rather than satisfaction after completing a task that required a lot of mental effort. *

  17. 17.

    It’s enough for me that something gets the job done; I don’t care how or why it works. *

  18. 18.

    I usually end up deliberating about issues even when they do not affect me personally.

* Items are reverse scored.

Appendix C

Items Included in the Adult Reading History Questionnaire

Prompt: Please respond to the following questions as honestly as possible.

Item Response type Response options Details Source
How much reading do you do for pleasure? Likert None—a great deal 7-point scale with halves (3—0) Lefly and Pennington (2000)
How much reading do you do in conjunction with your work? (If you are a full-time student, you can consider that your job)? Likert A great deal—none 7-point scale with halves (3—0) Finucci et al. (1982)
Do you read daily (Monday-Friday) newspapers? Likert Every day; once a week; once in a while; rarely; never 4-point scale (3—0) Finucci et al. (1984)
Do you read a newspaper on Sunday? Likert Completely every Sunday; scan each week; once in a while; rarely; never 4-point scale (3—0) Finucci et al. (1984)
Do you read newspaper and/or magazine articles on the internet? Likert Every day; once a week; once in a while; rarely; never 4-point scale (3—0) Finucci et al. (1984)
How many books do you read for pleasure each year? MC None; 1–2; 2–5; 6–10; More than 10   Finucci et al. (1984)
Please estimate the number of hours you read last week. MC Less than 5; 5—10; 11–20; 21–30; more than 30   Parault and Williams (2009)
  1. MC = Multiple-choice.

Appendix D

Final items included in The Readers’ Approaches to Text Questionnaire (TReAT-Q).

Prompt: This portion of the questionnaire focuses on your thoughts about reading. For each of the statements, please indicate to what extent the statement is characteristic of you. If the statement is extremely uncharacteristic of you please select "Strong disagreement"; if the statement is extremely characteristic of you (very much like you) please select "Strong agreement". Of course, a statement may be neither extremely uncharacteristic nor extremely characteristic of you; if so, please select one of the choices in the middle of the scale that describes the best fit. Please respond as honestly as possible.

TReAT-Q administered in Study 2

Item   
1 I read so I can have informed conversations with peers/co-workers.  
2 I’m usually more concerned about finishing a text than comprehending it. *
3 If a text is difficult, I rarely re-read sections of the text. *
4 Reading is not my idea of fun. *
5 I read to learn more about a topic I’m unfamiliar with.  
6 Understanding what I read is part of the fun of reading.  
7 I’d rather read long texts than short ones.  
8 When I read, I typically take note of key words or concepts in each paragraph.  
9 I rarely read to relax. *
10 I like to read texts that don’t require much effort to figure out. *
11 One benefit of reading is that it can improve my vocabulary.  
12 I often look up concepts I do not know.  
13 I seldom make summaries of what I read. *
14 I read because I enjoy it.  
15 I read so I can show others that I’m knowledgeable about a topic.  
16 I often highlight or underline words to follow an author’s line of thinking.  
17 When I read, I nearly always want to understand what I’ve read.  
18 I rarely make outlines to help me understand what I read. *
19 I do not feel that it is important to read regularly. *
20 It is important for me to read for fun, despite my other obligations.  
21 If I really want to comprehend a book/article, I try to put myself in an environment that will help me do so (e.g., find a quiet place).  
22 I try to avoid situations where there is a high chance I will have to read a text carefully. *
23 One reason I read is to improve my reasoning skills.  
24 I’d rather read difficult texts than easy ones.  
25 I’d rather spend effort understanding a long text than read a summary.  
26 I often skim when I do not need to know the content very well. *
27 When I don’t know words in a text, I try to figure out the meaning based on surrounding information.  
28 I generally do not like reading dense texts. *
29 One reason I like to read is that it allows me to exercise my imagination and creativity.  
30 I try to really understand a text, so I can form my own opinions about the content of the text.  
31 I read to study for exams or a job promotion  
  1. * denotes reverse scaling. Likert scale ranged from – 3 (Strong disagreement) to 3 (Strong agreement). Intrinsic goals items = 4, 6, 9, 14, 19, 20, 29; extrinsic goals and strategies items = 1, 8, 13, 15, 16, 18, 23, 31; effort at understanding items = 2, 3, 5, 11, 12, 17, 21, 27, 30; avoidance of text difficulty = 7, 10, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28.

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Calloway, R.C., Helder, A. & Perfetti, C.A. A measure of individual differences in readers’ approaches to text and its relation to reading experience and reading comprehension. Behav Res (2022). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13428-022-01852-1

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Keywords

  • Reading comprehension
  • Reading motivation
  • Adult readers
  • Individual differences
  • Questionnaire development
  • Structural equation modeling