The mnemonic medium may push readers to read more slowly and attentively

In interviews, Quantum Country readers have variously told us that the embedded Adjunct questions (Mnemonic medium prompts are interleaved into the reading experience) push them to read more carefully, or that the questions help them notice when their focus isn’t sharp (see also Interleaved mnemonic medium prompts uncover reading comprehension lapses, sometimes unpleasantly). Leaving aside the direct effect of the prompts on memory, the Mnemonic medium’s questions may simply help readers slow down and pay attention when they read. Understanding requires effortful engagement, so this effect may produce deeper understanding. Or more simply, it may promote basic reading comprehension (People often struggle to remember details of prose text because they never processed them in the first place).

It’s interesting that the Adjunct questions literature doesn’t seem to find general facilitative effects for unrelated content (see Adjunct questions improve comprehension of related but untested content). One hypothesis: adjunct questions don’t make people read more attentively if they’re reading material they don’t care about.

The review areas also create natural pauses in the reading experience, somewhat similar to Eckhart Tolle’s pause symbol, but perhaps not so reflective. Related: Mnemonic medium review sets create natural breaks in the reading experience

The flip side of this property is that the medium demands more attention than a typical written medium. Being pushed to read more slowly and attentively will feel unpleasant if you aren’t trying to engage in high-attention reading. See e.g. The initial mnemonic medium is implicitly authoritarian in premise; The mnemonic medium should give readers control over the prompts they collect.

It would be interesting to empirically compare the amount of time readers spend on an essay with and without questions, subtracting off the amount of time mnemonic medium readers spend directly engaged with questions. Eye-tracking data would be interesting tool.

Related: Most explanatory media place heavy metacognitive demands on participants

There’s plenty of prior art for this kind of attention-centric mechanism in CAI systems; see e.g. Anderson, T. H., Anderson, R. C., Dalgaard, B. R., Wietecha, E. J., Biddle, W. B., Paden, D. W., Smock, H. R., Alessi, S. M., Surber, J. R., & Klemt, L. L. (1974). A computer based study management system. Educational Psychologist, 11(1), 36–45.

Last updated 2023-09-13.