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J Health Psychol. 2011 Jul;16(5):794-806. doi: 10.1177/1359105310392090. Epub 2011 Feb 23.

Mechanisms underlying comprehension of health information in adulthood: the roles of prior knowledge and working memory capacity.

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Department of Human and Community Development, University of California, Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Prior knowledge, working memory capacity (WMC), and conceptual integration (attention allocated to integrating concepts in text) are critical within many contexts; however, their impact on the acquisition of health information (i.e. learning) is relatively unexplored.We examined how these factors impact learning about nutrition within a cross-sectional study of adults ages 18 to 81. Results showed that conceptual integration mediated the effects of knowledge and WMC on learning, confirming that attention to concepts while reading is important for learning about health. We also found that when knowledge was controlled, age declines in learning increased, suggesting that knowledge mitigates the effects of age on learning about nutrition.

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