Mindless reading occurs when an individual shifts their attention away from the text and toward other off-task thoughts. This study examined whether previously reported age-related declines in mindless reading episodes are due primarily to (a) situational features related to the text itself (e.g., text genre or interest in the text) and/or (b) individual differences in cognitive ability.Method:
Participants read 2 texts written in different genres but about the same topic. During reading, they were randomly probed to indicate whether they were on-task or mind-wandering. They also indicated their perceptions regarding the interest and difficulty of the text, and completed a battery of cognitive ability measures.Results:
The results showed that (a) text genre may engender some age differences in mindless reading and (b) greater age and perceived interest in the text were each uniquely predictive of reduced mindless reading for both text genres. Individual differences in cognitive abilities (e.g., working memory, vocabulary) did not account for additional significant variance in mindless reading after interest and age were taken into account.Discussion:
Our findings are discussed in terms of implications for age differences in lapses of attention during reading and predictors of mind-wandering generally.