Zoning out while reading

evidence for dissociations between experience and metaconsciousness

Jonathan W. Schooler, Erik Reichle, Demian Halpern

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we consider how a distinction between experiential consciousness and metaconsciousness can help both to characterize and to explain zoning out during reading. We begin by reviewing two surprisingly scant lines of previous empirical research relevant to zoning out while reading: educational research on comprehension monitoring and cognitive research (both laboratory and clinical) on task-unrelated images and thoughts. Although the findings of both these lines of research have important implications for the phenomenon of zoning out while reading, their oversight in not addressing zoning out directly has gone largely unnoticed. We correct this oversight by describing two recent experiments we conducted to explore the frequency, awareness, and comprehension implications of zoning out while reading. We conclude by considering the implications of our findings for theories of visual ocular motor control associated with reading specifically, and for theoretical conceptualizations of mindless behaviors more generally.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThinking and seeing
Subtitle of host publicationvisual metacognition in adults and children
EditorsD. T. Levin
Place of PublicationCambridge, MA
PublisherMIT Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780262621816, 0262621819
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

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    Schooler, J. W., Reichle, E., & Halpern, D. (2004). Zoning out while reading: evidence for dissociations between experience and metaconsciousness. In D. T. Levin (Ed.), Thinking and seeing: visual metacognition in adults and children (pp. 203-226). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.