PUSHING FOR PROCESSING: THE ROLES OF DEPTH OF PROCESSING, WORKING MEMORY, AND REACTIVITY ON COMPREHENSION
Mercer, Johnathan Daniels
PUSHING FOR PROCESSING:THE ROLES OF DEPTH OF PROCESSING, WORKING MEMORY, AND REACTIVITY ON COMPREHENSIONJohnathan D. Mercer, M.S.Thesis Advisors:Ronald P. Leow, Ph.D., Rusan Chen, Ph.D., and Nina Moreno, Ph.D.ABSTRACTVanPatten's (1996, 2004) Primacy of Meaning Principle claims that second language learners process for meaning before they process for form. Previous research has empirically tested this principle with varied results (Greenslade, Bowden, & Sanz, 1999; Leow, Hsieh, & Moreno, 2008; Morgan-Short, Heil, Botero-Moriarty, & Ebert, 2012; VanPatten, 1990; Wong, 2001). In each of these studies, attention to form has been operationalized either by circling the specific forms (for the reading modality, e.g., Greenslade et al., 1999; Leow et al, 2008; Wong, 2001) or by placing a check mark on a piece of paper (for the aural modality, e.g., VanPatten, 1990; Wong, 2001). As Leow et al. (2008) note, in their study, this resulted in a low level of processing that may not have been sufficient to have the detrimental effect on meaning postulated in the Primacy of Meaning Principle. Morgan-Short et al. (2012), who conceptually replicated Leow et al. (2008) with the addition of a Non-Think-Aloud group and a larger group of participants, found that level of processing was positively related to comprehension. Nonetheless, as they coded for processing after the experiment was over, their processing conditions were not random, and the potential for mediating variables to have played a role cannot be excluded. One such variable may be working memory, as this variable has been found to be related to reading comprehension (e.g., Harrington & Sawyer, 1992), the assessment task, and multitask performance (e.g., König, Buhner, & Murling, 2005). In this study, I randomly assigned participants to six groups, partitioned by Depth of Processing (DP), which included three depths, and the Think-Aloud vs. Non-Think-Aloud groups (TANTA). Data gathered revealed that processing for form at the depth of interpreting negatively affected L2 comprehension. Positive reactivity was also found. No evidence was found to support a role for amount of processing, a relationship between working memory capacity (WMC) and comprehension, or any interaction between the three main variables (DP, WMC, TANTA). The negative impact of processing for form at the depth of interpreting on L2 reading comprehension supports VanPatten's (2004) Primacy of Meaning Principle.
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