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The influence of topic interest, prior knowledge, and cognitive capabilities on text comprehension
Kurzfassung auf EnglischThe present study investigated the influence of topic interest on the comprehension of texts. The primary goals of the study were as follows: (1) to formulate a new definition of the concept "topic interest", (2) to control for cognitive capabilities (intelligence, short-term memory) and prior knowledge, and(3) to assess different levels of comprehension. A total of 53 male students, majoring in computer science, took part in the study. Subjects were presented with a text on "Psychology of Emotion". Prior to reading the text, they were asked to indicate their level of interest in the topic. After reading the text, subjects were given a test of comprehension involving open-ended questions. The questions were designed to represent different levels of comprehension. The results show that the effect of topic interest on text comprehension is especially pronounced when a deeper level of understanding is required. Surprisingly, prior knowledge had no effect on the level of comprehension. Verbal intelligence, on the other hand, showed a clear effect on comprehension, especially in answering questions of simple knowledge. The effects of interest and verbal intelligence could be shown to be independent of one another.
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