Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 11: 1–28, 1999.
1999 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Adults’ prior exposure to print as a predictor of the legibility of
text on paper and laptop computer
DEBORAH B. STONE
, SYLVIA K. FISHER
& JOHN ELIOT
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington DC;
University of Maryland, College Park
Abstract. This study investigated the effects of variations in graphic elements that account
for differences in speed and accuracy between reading text aloud from paper versus laptop
computer. Variations in accurate reading-aloud performance are attributable to individual
differences in the visual accessibility of information due to (1) the experimental manipulations
of the independent variables, (2) the subjects’ prior exposure to print within the culture, and
(3) the educational attainment of the subject. A non-representative sample of 48 female survey
interviewers (ages 38–72) were employed in the conduct of this study. Survey interviewers
were selectedbecause they gather information using laptop computers; the quality of thesurvey
information collected may be directly associated with the legibility of computerized text on
reader performance. Subjects completed a prior exposure to print questionnaire (Stanovich &
West 1989) and a demographic data form (IDIQ). Repeated-measures analyses of variance
were employed to examine individual differences in the speed and accuracy of reading-aloud
performance for twenty-four conditions varying the levels of independent variables including:
(1) Font (Times Roman, Helvetica, and Courier), (2) Justiﬁcation (fully-justiﬁed versus left-
justiﬁed), (3) Leading (single-spaced versus double-spaced), and (4) Mode of Presentation
(paper versus laptop computer). Linear regression analyses found subjects’ prior exposure
to print signiﬁcantly and positively related to predicting speed and miscue performance.
The subjects’ educational attainment signiﬁcantly predicted miscue performance. Subjects’
ages were not signiﬁcantly related to performance. Results of this study inform computer
programmers and designers who are responsible for developing standards and guidelines for
legible computerized text for the effective access of accurate information.
Key words: Fluent reading, Fonts, Legibility, Text accessibility, Typefaces
Recent research efforts which measure or assess readers’ decoding and cog-
nitive processing may have overlooked, or taken for granted, one area of the
encoding process which may facilitate and predict decoding variables. While
readers’ prior exposure to print on paper has been correlated with measures
such as comprehension, verbal literacy, declarative and cultural knowledge,
and increased vocabulary (Cunningham & Stanovich 1990, 1991), no men-
tion has been made of the graphic elements and features of the targeted text.
Researchers have not considered the role of standardized textual formats