UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Do highlights affect comprehension? Lessons from a user study Dodson, Samuel; Freund, Luanne; Kopak, Rick


A largely unquestioned assumption in social reading is that publicly shared annotations improve reading outcomes. In this study, we explore the specific assumption that relevant and irrelevant passive highlighting affects comprehension. Participants were divided by cognitive style based on their degree of Field Dependence-Independence [19]. We found that irrelevant highlights had significant negative effects on reading comprehension for Field Independents (FIs), but not Field Dependents (FDs). This is a surprising result because FDs typically rely on external cues to structure and help process information, whereas FIs use internal cues. This suggests that highlighting cues information but does not structure it.

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