Habitual reading biases in the allocation of study time

Robert Ariel*, Ibrahim S. Al-Harthy, Christopher A. Was, John Dunlosky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Item order can bias learners' study decisions and undermine the use of more effective allocation strategies, such as allocating study time to items in one's region of proximal learning. In two experiments, we evaluated whether the influence of item order on study decisions reflects habitual responding based on a reading bias. We manipulated the order in which relatively easy, moderately difficult, and difficult items were presented from left to right on a computer screen and examined selection preference as a function of item order and item difficulty. Experiment 1a was conducted with native Arabic readers and in Arabic, and Experiment 1b was conducted with native English readers and in English. Students from both cultures prioritized items for study in the reading order of their native language: Arabic readers selected items for study in a right-to-left fashion, whereas English readers largely selected items from left to right. In Experiment 2, native English readers completed the same task as participants in Experiment 1b, but for some participants, lines of text were rotated upside down to encourage them to read from right to left. Participants who read upside-down text were more likely to first select items on the right side of an array than were participants who studied right-side-up text. These results indicate that reading habits can bias learners' study decisions and can undermine agenda-based regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1021
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • Metacognition
  • Self-regulated study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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