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Study and Detection of Mindless Reading

Loboda, Tomasz D. (2014) Study and Detection of Mindless Reading. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Mind-wandering refers to a phenomenon of having thoughts unrelated to the task at hand. Its occurrences have been documented across different activities in both experimentally controlled and real-life situations. Furthermore, evidence suggests that one’s mind may start to wander at will and in moments when we preferred it did not. Indeed, mind-wandering has been linked to deterioration of performance in a number of activities. One example is compromised text comprehension: Experiencing mind-wandering episodes is unconducive to efficient reading.

One way we could hope to attenuate the negative influence of mind-wandering on performance is to recognize it and avoid it. However, because one may not be aware that their mind has wandered, we need to rely on external means of discovering mind-wandering. Unfortunately, current state-of-the-art methods of detecting mind-wandering are imprecise and impractical. In this dissertation, I attempt to ameliorate some of these methodological deficiencies by developing an alternative, a completely unobtrusive way of detecting mindless reading (i.e., mind-wandering during reading).

The ability to read is the sine qua non of daily life in literate societies and has been studied for over 40 years. However, mindless reading literature is far less voluminous. Because of that, I approach mindless reading detection by first systematically studying mindless reading itself thus expanding our understanding of this still nebulous cognitive phenomenon.

Eye movements play a central role in this work. Interestingly, even though text comprehension may cease entirely during mindless reading, eyes of mindless readers move remarkably similar to those of mindful readers. Despite that, my results suggest that eye movements can be used to successfully disentangle these two modes of reading.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Loboda, Tomasz D.tol7@pitt.eduTOL7
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDruzdzel, Marek J.marek@sis.pitt.eduDRUZDZEL
Committee CoChairReichle, Erik
Committee MemberBrusilovsky, Peterpeterb@pitt.eduPETERB
Committee MemberHirtle, Stephen C.hirtle@pitt.eduHIRTLE
Date: 3 June 2014
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 March 2014
Approval Date: 3 June 2014
Submission Date: 2 June 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 196
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Information Sciences > Information Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: mind wandering, mindless reading, detection, methodology, statistical classification, subject experiment
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2014 16:52
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:20


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