Metacognitive regulation of text learning: on screen versus on paper

J Exp Psychol Appl. 2011 Mar;17(1):18-32. doi: 10.1037/a0022086.


Despite immense technological advances, learners still prefer studying text from printed hardcopy rather than from computer screens. Subjective and objective differences between on-screen and on-paper learning were examined in terms of a set of cognitive and metacognitive components, comprising a Metacognitive Learning Regulation Profile (MLRP) for each study media. Participants studied expository texts of 1000-1200 words in one of the two media and for each text they provided metacognitive prediction-of-performance judgments with respect to a subsequent multiple-choice test. Under fixed study time (Experiment 1), test performance did not differ between the two media, but when study time was self-regulated (Experiment 2) worse performance was observed on screen than on paper. The results suggest that the primary differences between the two study media are not cognitive but rather metacognitive--less accurate prediction of performance and more erratic study-time regulation on screen than on paper. More generally, this study highlights the contribution of metacognitive regulatory processes to learning and demonstrates the potential of the MLRP methodology for revealing the source of subjective and objective differences in study performance among study conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cognition*
  • Comprehension*
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male