The Structure of Writing Processes as Revealed by Secondary Task Demands
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This study investigates how working memory capacity may account for why better writers are able to coordinate mutliple subprocesses more easily than poor writers. Writing, while distracted by secondary task demands, offers one way to explore the importance of working memory to the structure inherent in the writing subprocesses. For the study, the author chose experiments based on the finding that good writers manage the simultaneous demands of writing subprocesses better than poor writers(Levy & Ransdell, 1995, pp. 767–779). Students composed essays while distracted by concurrent loads on working memory. The author found that when relatively minor demands were made on working memory, i.e., unattended and attended background speech, these variables caused a decrease in fluency, but had no effect on quality. Attended, but not unattended, speech reliably reduced average sentence length. A concurrent task of remembering six digits reduced fluency by nearly 50% also reliably decreased quality and sentence length. Resources which are relatively stable in the face of dual-task demands were allocated for the regulation of writing quality, sentence length, pause duration and location. The author found that better writers write longer sentences, pause for shorter durations and at clause boundaries more often than poorer writers. Competing tasks first disrupt the timing of writing and only impact quality when larger secondary task demands in working memory are required.
Medicine and Health Sciences
Composition, Fluency, Writing, Writing Quality, Writing Tasks
Ransdell, Sarah Elle PhD; Levy, C. Michael; and Kellogg, Ronald T., "The Structure of Writing Processes as Revealed by Secondary Task Demands" (2002). Department of Health Sciences Faculty Articles. 259.