Writing development and cognitive effort
Victoria Johansson (Lund University, Sweden), Pia Gustafsson (Lund University, Sweden) and Johan Frid (Lund University, Sweden)
The study of the real-time writing process provide insights to what the developing writer is occupied with at the moment. Pausing during writing has long been studied within the field of cognitive writing research, with the underlying assumption that increased pause time reflects more cognitive effort. Previous studies describe that writers of all ages prefer to pause between larger syntactic units and that pausing occurs in contexts which reflect linguistic and writing development (Spelman Miller 2006, Ailhaud et al. 2016).
This paper examines pausing during writing in a developmental perspective, from elementary school to university level, aiming to describe how pause patterns in writing can reflect on linguistic structures that a writer is currently in the process of acquiring. We analysed expository texts, collected by means of keylogging, by 136 participants from the ages 10, 13, 15, 17 and adults. Around 15 000 pauses above 2 s. were analysed regarding syntactic pause location. Results revealed significant age effects for proportion pause time in clause boundaries. 13- and 15-year-olds paused most in these contexts, while 10-year-olds paused longer within-words. The oldest groups paused more in connection with revision; the 17-year-olds especially in connection with (expanding) phrases.
The pause patterns seem to reflect an on-going linguistic development and give guidelines as to what education can focus on for different ages, which is important both on a general and individual level. The outcome is valuable for teaching, regarding the general linguistic development as well as the more specific skill of expository writing.