Is comprehension of problem solutions resistant to misleading heuristic cues?

Rakefet Ackerman, David Leiser, Maya Shpigelman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Previous studies in the domain of metacomprehension judgments have primarily used expository texts. When these texts include illustrations, even uninformative ones, people were found to judge that they understand their content better. The present study aimed to delineate the metacognitive processes involved in understanding problem solutions - a text type often perceived as allowing reliable judgments regarding understanding, and was not previously considered from a metacognitive perspective. Undergraduate students faced difficult problems. They then studied solution explanations with or without uninformative illustrations and provided judgments of comprehension (JCOMPs). Learning was assessed by application to near-transfer problems in an open-book test format. As expected, JCOMPs were polarized - they tended to reflect good or poor understanding. Yet, JCOMPs were higher for the illustrated solutions and even high certainty did not ensure resistance to this effect. Moreover, success in the transfer problems was lower in the presence of illustrations, demonstrating a bias stronger than that found with expository texts. Previous studies have suggested that weak learners are especially prone to being misled by superficial cues. In the present study, matching the difficulty of the task to the ability of the target population revealed that even highly able participants were not immune to misleading cues. The study extends previous findings regarding potential detrimental effects of illustrations and highlights aspects of the metacomprehension process that have not been considered before.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-112
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 May 2013


  • Illustrations
  • Judgment of comprehension
  • Metacognitive monitoring
  • Problem solving

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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