Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dr. Mark Grabe


One strategy used by good college-age readers is to spend additional time viewing or reading information which is relevant to their goals or purpose in reading. Additional viewing time of goal-relevant information then presumably leads to superior retention of this information, at the expense of information which is irrelevant to the reader's goals. One way to detect different strategies used by younger and older readers is to measure how much viewing time readers allot to goal-relevant information and how much of this information is recalled. Relevant information can be designated as that material which contains answers to previously-memorized questions or it can be defined as the text segments which are intrinsically most important to the theme of the text.

This study was designed to measure the impact of age upon the higher-level control and monitoring processes necessary for effective prose comprehension. In the first experiment, twenty-four college-age subjects and twenty-four elderly subjects, classified as high or low in verbal ability, read two passages and answered questions about them. In the treatment condition, questions were known beforehand. In the control condition, no questions were given before reading the story. Inspection times were recorded for all subjects while they read at their own rate. Results showed that both younger and older readers spent more time viewing information relevant to their goal. All subjects also recalled more goal-relevant than irrelevant information.

In the second experiment, the same forty-eight subjects read two passages one idea unit at a time. They then orally recalled the story. Inspection times were recorded for each segment of the text. Results revealed that both younger and older readers spent more time viewing information relevant to the theme of the passage. All subjects also recalled text segments as a function of that segment's importance to the theme of the passage.

Results are discussed as lending support to the hypothesis that older readers are adaptive and flexible information processors, able to vary strategies to obtain the desired reading goal. Thus, there do not seem to be adult age differences in at least some metacognitive skills. However, adults showed lower overall recall and slower overall reading time. Slower verbal coding speed leading to a smaller effective processing capacity is consistent with the obtained results and is discussed as a possible explanation for the observed age-related memory decline. Implications of this research and possible future directions of research in this area are also discussed.