Effects of coherence and relevance on shallow and deep text processing

Stephen Lehman, Gregory Schraw
2002 Journal of Educational Psychology  
In 2 experiments, the authors examined the effects of coherence and relevance on shallow and deeper text processing, testing the hypothesis that enhancing the relevance of text segments compensates for breaks in local and global coherence. In Experiment 1, they found that breaks in local coherence had no effect on any outcome measures, whereas relevance enhanced deeper processing. In Experiment 2, they found that breaks in global coherence interfered with shallow processing, whereas relevance
more » ... hanced deeper processing. In addition, interactions revealed that relevance compensates for breaks in global coherence on measures of deeper processing. The compensation hypothesis was supported. One explanation for these results is that relevance enables readers to focus on salient information, which in turn can be used to repair serious coherence breaks. Understanding written text depends on a wide variety of textprocessing variables. Our goal in the present study was to examine how two of these variables, coherence and relevance, affect shallow and deep levels of text understanding. Coherence is the extent to which the text segments are linked structurally to themselves and information in memory. Relevance is the extent to which text segments are germane to the reader's goals and purposes. We selected these variables because in several recent studies, text relevance compensated for other text-processing variables, such as importance and working memory span (Di Vesta & Di Cintio, 1997; Narvaez, van den Broek, & Ruiz, 1999; Schraw, Wade, & Kardash, 1993) . We inquired whether a similar compensatory relationship exists between coherence and relevance. Currently, there is no theoretical account of the relationship between coherence and relevance and how they are related to different levels of text understanding. For this reason, we begin by summarizing recent research on text coherence and relevance, then describe the purpose of the present research in greater detail. We compare two distinct theoretical positions, which we refer to as the no-compensation and compensation hypotheses, and relate these to previous research. We also describe shallow and deeper levels of text processing and how we used multiple measures at each level to assess the impact of coherence and relevance. Previous Research on Coherence and Relevance Coherence Coherence refers to the extent to which text segments are structurally linked to other text segments. Most accounts distinguish between local and global coherence. Local coherence occurs
doi:10.1037//0022-0663.94.4.738 fatcat:wpfr4ghvmrgpxbpkprrun4sfr4