Contributions of Self-Explanation to Comprehension of High- and Low-Cohesion Texts

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



This study examined how the contribution of self-explanation to science text comprehension is affected by the cohesion of a text at a local level. Psychology undergraduates read and self-explained a science text with either low or high local cohesion. Local cohesion was manipulated by the presence or absence of connectives and referential words or phrases that explicitly link successive sentences. After the self-explanation activity, participants answered open-ended comprehension questions about the text. Participants in the high local cohesion condition produced higher quality explanations, including more local bridging self-explanations, than those in the low local cohesion condition. However, these explanations, although higher in quality, did not improve comprehension. Performance on text-based comprehension questions was better in the low local cohesion condition. In addition, the correlation between self-explanation quality and comprehension performance was generally higher in the low local cohesion condition compared to the high local cohesion condition, even after factoring out participants' level of topic-relevant knowledge. These data suggest that the contribution of self-explanation to comprehension is larger when the text lacks certain cues that facilitate making connections between successive ideas in a text. Further, the results imply that a key contribution of self-explanation to text comprehension is to induce active inference processes whereby readers fill in conceptual gaps in challenging texts.


At the time of publication, Stephen Briner was affiliated with DePaul University.