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Challenges

As described in the above section, first and second pass reading times are often used as measures in eye movement research but can be an indication of different cognitive processes (Ariasi & Mason, 2011; Holmqvist et al., 2011; Hybna et al., 2003). With regard to fMRI research, the brain is a busy place with all regions working at the same time (Varma et al., 2008). For both types of psychophysiological measures (eye tracking and fMRI), it is thus not so straightforward to interpret these micro-measures of learning. Therefore, a first challenge that is discussed is the interpretation of these micro-measures. Another point of consideration when using psychophysiological measures is taking the lab setting into account, by which one is limited in using a great variety of learning tasks. The ecological validity of learning tasks is discussed as a second challenge. A last challenge that is described is how to handle the more complex datasets resulting from using psychophysiological measures.

Interpretation of Micro-measures

Eye movement registrations and brain imaging methods are able to capture unconscious processing activities that a student would not be able to report on. Therefore, it is hard for subjects to consciously manipulate their responses (Dimoka et al., 2012). As a consequence, the micro-measures are often described as a more objective measure of processing activities. However, we believe that one of the main challenges in eye movement and brain imaging research is to interpret these micro-measures of processing and we therefore argue that these measures are often not as objective as they are described. For example, eye tracking studies have shown that second pass reading times can be an indication of different cognitive processes, such as comprehension monitoring, deeper processing, difficulty with text passages, multiple use of processing strategies, deeper processing in combination with interest, among others (Ariasi, Hydna, Kaakinen, & Mason, 2017; Catrysse et al., 2018, Catrysse, Gijbels, Donche et al., 2018; Hydna & Lorch, 2004; Hydna et al., 2002, 2003). With regard to brain imaging methods, a point of consideration is that the brain is a busy place, with all regions working at all times. To obtain task-relevant signals, participants need to perform the task of interest and the control task during many trials (Varma et al., 2008). Often cognitive subtraction is than used in which the experimental task is compared with the control task to infer which brain regions are specialized for a particular cognitive component (Ward, 2010). In addition, the collection of behavioral data is a necessary step in most brain imaging studies (De Smedt, 2014; Ward, 2010). In memory research, the subsequent memory paradigm is often used (Cabeza & Nyberg, 2000), in which participants are presented with items that they need to remember and the brain imaging data is later analyzed as a function of whether the items were remembered or forgotten during a memory test (Gazzaniga, Ivry, & Mangun, 2014). Whether a word or word pair will be remembered or not not only depends on the processing strategies that were used but also on the way the memory is probed (Craik & Lockhart, 1972; Galli, 2014; Tulving & Thompson, 1973). In addition, when processing strategies are examined at the text level, recall measures have a stronger relationship with surface processing, such as memorizing the text, than with deep processing, such as trying to understand the underlying meaning of the text (Dinsmore & Alexander, 2012).

Multi-method designs are therefore a crucial step to further interpret these micro-measures (van Gog & Jarodzka, 2013; Veenman, 2005). In eye movement research, self-report measures are often used to further interpret the longer fixation durations (Catrysse et al., 2018; van Gog & Jarodzka, 2013). In fMRI research, memory tests are mostly used in order to distinguish between successful and unsuccessful processing and learning (Cabeza & Nyberg, 2000). These psychophysiological measures cannot be used as stand-alone measures, and one should be careful with the interpretation of longer fixation durations or higher activity in certain brain areas as it can be related to different cognitive processes.

 
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