Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Alice F. Healy



When, if ever, is it beneficial to take a break from intellectual work or study? Here begins an investigation into the broad, important, and scientifically untapped issue of the benefit of break taking by placing subjects into one of two experimental conditions: (a) those who took a 5-min break during the reading of a college level astronomy textbook chapter, or (b) those who did not take a break. The effect of the break was quantified by subjects’ score on two multiple-choice tests designed to measure comprehension of the material contained in the textbook chapter, and by the amount of time it took subjects in each condition to read the chapter. One multiple choice test was administered immediately after subjects read the chapter, and the other 48 hrs later. An equal number of questions on each test corresponded either to the section of the text read prior to the break, or to the section of the text read after the break. Reading time was also broken down by the same two sections of the text. There was no effect of the break on either reading comprehension or reading time. In other words, the break neither helped nor harmed subjects’ reading comprehension, and neither increased nor decreased subjects’ reading speed. Nevertheless, strong conclusions about the effectiveness or lack thereof of breaks from intellectual work cannot be drawn from this novel investigation. Instead, a future body of research should seek to build upon the groundwork that has been laid here.