David Rapp

David N. Rapp is a Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Science, and in the Learning Sciences program in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University. His work develops and tests theoretical accounts of human language and memory, as well as applies those understandings towards educational design and intervention. He will being serving as Editor of the journal Discourse Processes in Fall 2015.

Reading comprehension involves a dynamic, interactive set of processes including 1) the activation of prior knowledge, 2) the use of that activated information along with the current text, and 3) the potential updating or revision of memory. My program of research examines how these higher-order activities function both successfully and unsuccessfully during reading. I also focus on the mechanisms that underlie our general, everyday reading experiences - for instance, how our preferences for events and characters directly influence our reading processes.

    Some of my work attempts to generalize these findings from text to a variety of learning conditions, including our experiences exploring spatial environments with maps, our understanding of procedures delivered through multimedia presentations, and the acquisition of scientific knowledge from novel visualizations. All of this work requires the integration of theory and research from different disciplines in psychology (including cognitive and educational psychology). Such an interdisciplinary view is important for both examining the basic mechanisms necessary for comprehension, as well as for advancing applied work that attempts to remediate comprehension difficulties.


Research Interests

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Narrative and expository experiences
  • Updating Prior Knowledge
  • Mental and Situation Models
  • Translation of Cognitive Science Research to educational settings
  • Multimedia Learning
  • Visualizations as learning tools.



Members of the lab will be presenting their work at the 2015 APS Annual Convention in New York, NY, as well as the Society for Text & Discourse 2015 Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, MN.

Rapp Lab


Room 220

2120 Campus Drive

Evanston, IL 60201



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