Reading and the psychology of motivation 

Reading is a voluntary activity that people can start to do if they want to. They can also stop reading any time - even mid sentence.  Although we tend to think of reading as somehow different from other forms of behaviour, many psychological concepts still apply. One of those is motivation and goal orientation.

Reading and motivation

People read in three ways:

  1. Skimming over the surface.  

  2. Getting the gist of the meaning

  3. Thinking about the content 

Readers skim over the surface when they want to figure out if this content is relevant to them.  If they decide it is and they need to act on the information they will put in the effort to understand the gist of it all the while thinking ahead, asking how can I use this?  Sometimes, readers want to think about the information they have read. When that happens, reading sparks ideas in their minds. We might counter-argue, or smile as our own thoughts are confirmed, or we discover how one idea connects with another.  Readers stop reading when the effort involved exceeds the reward, whether the reward is information or enjoyment. The 'effort' here is the subjective experience of ease with which people process information. It is called 'processing fluency'. It can be measured by how the reader feels. 

This kind of cognitive activity is manifested as a certain behaviour that can be observed.  That is why the second step in our user testing for written content involves observation. 

If you want to know more, please visit our User Testing for written content page where I explain the benefits of independent user testing, explain more about our model, and give you more details abut how our testing works, or email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.




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