Comparison of Cognitive Loads between Koreans and Foreigners in the Reading Process

Comparison of Cognitive Loads between Koreans and Foreigners in the Reading Process
EEG; Cognitive load; Text reading; Schema activation
Issue Date
대한인간공학회지, v. 35, NO 4, Page. 1-13
Objective: This study aims to measure cognitive load levels by analyzing the EEG of Koreans and foreigners, when they read a Korean text with care selected by level from the grammar and vocabulary aspects, and compare the cognitive load levels through quantitative values. The study results can be utilized as basic data for more scientific approach, when Korean texts or books are developed, and an evaluation method is built, when the foreigners encounter them for learning or an assignment. Background: Based on 2014, the number of the foreign students studying in Korea was 84,801, and they increase annually. Most of them are from Asian region, and they come to Korea to enter a university or a graduate school in Korea. Because those foreign students aim to learn within Universities in Korea, they receive Korean education from their preparation for study in Korea. To enter a university in Korea, they must acquire grade 4 or higher level in the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), or they need to complete a certain educational program at each university's affiliated language institution. In such a program, the learners of the Korean language receive Korean education based on texts, except speaking domain, and the comprehension of texts can determine their academic achievements in studying after they enter their desired schools (Jeon, 2004). However, many foreigners, who finish a language course for the short-term, and need to start university study, cannot properly catch up with university classes requiring expertise with the vocabulary and grammar levels learned during the language course. Therefore, reading education, centered on a strategy to understand university textbooks regarded as top level reading texts to the foreigners, is necessary (Kim and Shin, 2015). This study carried out an experiment from a perspective that quantitative data on the readers of the main player of reading education and teaching materials need to be secured to back up the need for reading education for university study learners, and scientifically approach educational design. Namely, this study grasped the difficulty level of reading through the measurement of cognitive loads indicated in the reading activity of each text by dividing the difficulty of a teaching material (book) into eight levels, and the main player of reading into Koreans and foreigners. Method: To identify cognitive loads indicated upon reading Korean texts with care by Koreans and foreigners, this study recruited 16 participants (eight Koreans and eight foreigners). The foreigners were limited to the language course students studying the intermediate level Korean course at university-affiliated language institutions within Seoul Metropolitan Area. To identify cognitive load, as they read a text by level selected from the Korean books (difficulty: eight levels) published by King Sejong Institute (, the EEG sensor was attached to the frontal love (Fz) and occipital lobe (Oz). After the experiment, this study carried out a questionnaire survey to measure subjective evaluation, and identified the comprehension and difficulty on grammar and words. To find out the effects on schema that may affect text comprehension, this study controlled the Korean texts, and measured EEG and subjective satisfaction. Results: To identify brain's cognitive load, beta band was extracted. As a result, interactions (Fz: p =0.48; Oz: p =0.00) were revealed according to Koreans and foreigners, and difficulty of the text. The cognitive loads of Koreans, the readers whose mother tongue is Korean, were lower in reading Korean texts than those of the foreigners, and the foreigners' cognitive loads became higher gradually according to the difficulty of the texts. From the text four, which is intermediate level in difficulty, remarkable differences started to appear in comparison of the Koreans and foreigners in the beginner's level text. In the subjective evaluation, interactions were revealed according to the Koreans and foreigners and text difficulty (p =0.00), and satisfaction was lower, as the difficulty of the text became higher. Conclusion: When there was background knowledge in reading, namely schema was formed, the comprehension and satisfaction of the texts were higher, although higher levels of vocabulary and grammar were included in the texts than those of the readers. In the case of a text in which the difficulty of grammar was felt high in the subjective evaluation, foreigners' cognitive loads were also high, which shows the result of the loads' going up higher in proportion to the increase of difficulty. This means that the grammar factor functions as a stress factor to the foreigners' reading comprehension. Application: This study quantitatively evaluated the cognitive loads of Koreans and foreigners through EEG, based on readers and the text difficulty, when they read Korean texts. The results of this study can be used for making Korean teaching materials or Korean education content and topic selection for foreigners. If research scope is expanded to reading process using an eye-tracker, the reading education program and evaluation method for foreigners can be developed on the basis of quantitative values.
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