The effect of disfluency on mind wandering during text comprehension

Myrthe Faber, Caitlin Mills, Kristopher Kopp, Sidney D’Mello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


When reading, we frequently find ourselves thinking about something other than the text. These attentional lapses, known as mind wandering (MW), are negatively correlated with text comprehension. Previous studies have shown that more syntactically and semantically difficult texts elicit more MW, because textual difficulty impedes the construction of a mental model of the text, which makes it more difficult to suppress off-task thoughts. But is it possible to reduce MW without altering the content of the text itself? We hypothesized that reading a perceptually disfluent text might require more attentional resources, even if the content remained the same, leaving fewer resources available for MW. To test this idea, we manipulated the typefaces (fluent [Arial] or disfluent [[InlineMediaObject not available: see fulltext.]]) of two instructional texts on scientific research methods (each about 1,490 words long), and found that MW was less frequent when participants read the disfluent text. There were no comprehension differences between the fluent and disfluent groups. However, we did find an indirect effect of disfluency on comprehension through MW, suggesting that disfluency influences comprehension by enhancing attention. These findings provide insights into how processing difficulty and attention interact during reading comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)914-919
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Attention
  • Learning
  • Reading


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