Digital platforms encourage a focus on details

From Geoff Kaufman and Mary Flanagan:

The present research investigated whether digital and non-digital platforms activate differing default levels of cognitive construal. Two initial randomized experiments revealed that individuals who completed the same information processing task on a digital mobile device (a tablet or laptop computer) versus a non-digital platform (a physical print-out) exhibited a lower level of construal, one prioritizing immediate, concrete details over abstract, decontextualized interpretations. This pattern emerged both in digital platform participants’ greater preference for concrete versus abstract descriptions of behaviors as well as superior performance on detail-focused items (and inferior performance on inference-focused items) on a reading comprehension assessment. A pair of final studies found that the likelihood of correctly solving a problem-solving task requiring higher-level “gist” processing was: (1) higher for participants who processed the information for task on a non-digital versus digital platform and (2) heightened for digital platform participants who had first completed an activity activating an abstract mindset, compared to (equivalent) performance levels exhibited by participants who had either completed no prior activity or completed an activity activating a concrete mindset.

Here is also the press release, and for the pointer I thank Charles Klingman.


Now I know why I always want to print out RFCs and system specifications.

Is this a relic from the paper-based training we've received? Of the novels that I have read, about 95% were paper. Of the instructions I've read, that figure is much lower. I haven't read the paper but what seems more likely, some innate difference between digital and paper based (what about stone based, wood based, list format, haiku, digital ink, or a book behind a clear screen?), or difference in experience?

Boy, these authors do not write to communicate but to show off the jargon.

Bottom line: You never want to take a test on a tablet if there is a paper alternative.

"Boy, these authors do not write to communicate but to show off the jargon. "


well said, bill . . .

Thank you. Awaiting digital comments on this digital platform for cognitive construal, hopefully acquiring the "gist".

This request may activate different default levels of cognitive construal exhibiting decontextualized interpretations of inferenced-focus items in your higher level gist set.

This was in response to Shane.

They ought to eschew obfuscation

This is why I print off MR in the morning and dictate comments to my secretary.

Be careful.

Don't leave it at the xerox machine.

ah beans . . .

what ever happens . . . somewhere out in that big old godamned cosmos, there's some music there . . .

this presentation is incomparable. sorry 4 b n so redundant . . .


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