ST. LOUIS – Researchers found that students had significantly faster reading rates and total reading time on the same passage on paper compared to an iPad, according to a study presented here at Optometry’s Meeting.
The poster by Amanda Lallensack, a student at Midwestern University, was named as one of the top five posters presented.
“As students, we take a lot of exams electronically, and we’ve noticed that children are using screens earlier and earlier; schools are incorporating iPads into their curriculum,” Lallensack said. “Parents ask if technology is ruining kids’ vision and how the eyes work together.”
Lallensack said she and her colleagues decided to investigate what this means for the future of reading and learning, whether a difference truly exists in the way the eyes move or process information on two different types of media and if this will negatively impact us as we move toward using more screens.
The study involved 31 subjects age 20 to 40 years who were nonpresbyopic, correctable to 20/20 and had no strabismus or dyslexia.
Subjects were evaluated using a pre- and post-reading survey, near visual acuity chart, occluder and prism bars, a Visagraph (Bernell), Visagraph passages booklet and an iPad with photos of the Visagraph passages booklet.
Lallensack explained that the Visagraph provides a printed summary that includes eye tracking movements, fixation/fixation duration and regressions and words per minute/overall time reading.
“This allows us to track the quality of eye movements,” she said.
The Visagraph asks 10 questions per passage to test for reading comprehension, Lallensack explained.
“We told patients to read for comprehension as opposed to just for speed,” she said.
Lallensack said that before the reading exercise, subjects were asked what they used most often when studying, whether they preferred to read online or print (if cost was not an issue) and on which test they thought they would perform better. After the reading exercise they were asked on which test they thought they performed better.
Fixations and regressions per 100 words were not statistically significant between the two methods, Lallensack said.
However, fixation duration was longer with the iPad, and reading rate was 318 words per minute for paper vs. 294 word per minute on iPad.
“People took longer on iPad vs. paper,” she said.
Most subjects “thought they would perform better on paper, and all preferred to use paper,” Lallensack said.
“There is a significant difference in reading rate and overall speed between paper and digital devices,” she said. “There is not a significant difference in reading quality.”
Lallensack said she and her colleagues hypothesized that they may have found these results because “our participants were primarily graduate students who grew up learning to read on paper. If we tested a younger generation, would there be a difference if they grew up on digital devices? Is it the feel of the paper? Ergonomics? Is our posture different when reading on a laptop or iPad vs. holding a book? Maybe it’s digital eye strain, and if we could measure the lipid layer as they’re reading, how would that look?” – by Nancy Hemphill, ELS, FAAO
Lallensack A, et al. Reading efficiency on print vs. iPad reading. Presented at: Optometry’s Meeting; June 19-23, 2019; St. Louis.
Disclosure: Lallensack reported no relevant financial disclosures.