To scroll or not to scroll: scrolling, working memory capacity, and comprehending complex texts

Hum Factors. 2009 Oct;51(5):730-8. doi: 10.1177/0018720809352788.


Objective: The purpose of these experiments was to examine the effects of user characteristics on learning from scrolling interfaces.

Background: Although scrolling Web pages are now common, few studies have explored the effects of scrolling on understanding the content that is being conveyed.

Method: This set of studies investigated whether presenting text in two particular formats has an effect on comprehension for readers who differ in working memory capacity.

Results: Results from both studies indicated that a scrolling format reduced understanding of complex topics from Web pages, especially for readers who were lower in working memory capacity.

Conclusion: These findings show that the way text is presented can interact with learner abilities to affect learning outcomes.

Application: These results have implications for both educational technology and human interfaces that present information using displays that can vary in size and construction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Comprehension*
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet*
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Southwestern United States
  • User-Computer Interface*