Managing Hyperlinks (part 2)

In my previous post I shared about the distractions created by hyperlinks. But what can we do to mitigate these distractions?

There are a couple of ways you can limit the distractions caused by hyperlinks. If you are reading a webpage that contains hyperlink you are interested in pursuing, right click on those links and select “open in new tab.” Then read those new webpages when you have finished browsing the current article.

Even better, when reading a webpage, copy it into a Word document, select all the text, and then remove the color and underline so that the hyperlinks can no longer be distinguished from the rest of the text. When you have finished reading the article, you can return to the original webpage and read it again to give attention to the hyperlinks.  This may all seem unnecessary, and yet this simple procedure could help enormously to weed out potential distractions.

Don’t just take our word for this. Once again, there is research to support this. In 2007, psychologists Diana DeStefano and Jo-Anne LeFevre published an article in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, reviewing thirty-eight different experiments with people reading text peppered with hyperlinks. Many of the studies they reviewed found that hypertext diminished comprehension while none of the studies found that cognitive processing was increased.

Similarly, in 1999, the Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia published the results of a study conducted by researcher Erping Zhu, who had compared the comprehension of two groups of people. Both groups were given the same content to read online, but with one difference: the content given to first group included hyperlinks. Zhu found that concentration increased as the amount of links decreased. The experiment, Zhu wrote, suggested a direct correlation “between the number of links and disorientation or cognitive overload.”

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