Visual noise disrupts conceptual integration in reading

Xuefei Gao, Elizabeth A.L. Stine-Morrow, Soo Rim Noh, Rhea T. Eskew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Effortfulness Hypothesis suggests that sensory impairment (either simulated or age-related) may decrease capacity for semantic integration in language comprehension. We directly tested this hypothesis by measuring resource allocation to different levels of processing during reading (i.e.,word vs. semantic analysis). College students read three sets of passages word-by-word, one at each of three levels of dynamic visual noise. There was a reliable interaction between processing level and noise, such that visual noise increased resources allocated to word level processing, at the cost of attention paid to semantic analysis. Recall of the most important ideas also decreased with increasing visual noise. Results suggest that sensory challenge can impair higher-level cognitive functions in learning from text, supporting the Effortfulness Hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-88
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2011


  • Reading
  • Resource allocation
  • Visual noise

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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