Sometimes adults miss the main ideas and do not realize it: Confidence in responses to short-answer and multiple-choice comprehension questions

Pressley, Michael; Ghatala, Elizabeth S.; Woloshyn, Vera; Pine, Jennifer
June 1990
Reading Research Quarterly;Summer1990, Vol. 25 Issue 3, p234
Academic Journal
In two experiments Canadian university students read challenging passages, each of which was followed by a short-answer or multiple-choice question covering some content in the passage. In the first experiment, each student was asked to read a passage and answer the accompanying question, and then to make a decision whether to move forward (if he or she thought the answer was probably correct) or to look back in the text and try the question again (if he or she believed the response was probably incorrect). As found in previous research, students' monitoring of their reading and rereading was slightly better in the short-answer than in the multiple-choice condition. More striking, however, was the finding that students rarely chose to look back for general, thematic questions (as contrasted with detail questions), even when their answers were incorrect, in Experiment 2, students were asked directly to rate their confidence in their answers to short-answer and multiple-choice questions. As in the first study, students had great confidence that their answers to thematic questions in both short-answer and multiple-choice formats were correct, even when they were wrong, importantly, students' overconfidence in answers to thematic questions was not related to their verbal ability. The authors conclude that when adults read challenging, inconsiderate texts, they may often be unaware of gross comprehension problems. Future research is necessary to determine how common such serious misperceptions are among adults.


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