Reading constitutes a fundamental part of scientific literacy (Morais & Kolinsky, 2016). Previous studies have demonstrated that presenting scientific contents in literary narrative format (LN), compared to expository text (ET), produces better learning (e.g., Arya & Maul, 2012; Hadzigeorgiou et al., 2012). However, the precise cognitive processes that underlie this advantage in such learning situations have not been fully addressed. Previous research (e.g., Cain, Oakhill, & Bryant, 2004; Kim, 2016) has established that executive functions (EF), theory of mind (ToM) inferences and more general inferencing processes play an important role in comprehension.
Although there is agreement that EF are fundamental for comprehension and learning processes, it is not clear how they specifically operate when learning scientific contents from different formats. Inferencing ability is considered a fundamental process for establishing coherence, yet most studies that investigate inferencing generation in LN versus ET do not control for content (usually LN do not describe scientific contents), which renders comparisons between the formats in this particular learning situation more difficult. Finally, while the importance of ToM inferences for narrative text comprehension has been demonstrated, its involvement in situations of science learning has not been explored.
Since the LN format seems to promote better comprehension, it is likely that the aforementioned cognitive processes will operate differently across formats. In this PhD project, we aim to investigate how these cognitive processes are involved in these learning situations.