David Rapp

David Rapp

Professor, Learning Sciences
Professor, Department of Psychology

Annenberg Hall
Room 220
2120 Campus Drive
Evanston, IL 60208-0001
Phone: (847) 467-1871

David N. Rapp is an associate professor in both the School of Education and Social Policy, and the Department of Psychology, at Northwestern University. 

Comprehension involves a dynamic, interactive set of processes that includes 1) the activation of prior knowledge, 2) the use of that activated knowledge along with information in current focus to generate understandings beyond what was explicitly presented, and 3) the potential updating or revision of memory. David Rapp’s program of research examines how these processes function both successfully and unsuccessfully during learning experiences. The goal of his work is to describe the complex interactions between learning processes and learning experiences that drive comprehension, and to influence those factors in the pursuit of best learning practices. To address this goal, he has pursued three related lines of research at the intersect of cognitive science and educational psychology. The first examines the role of readers’ background knowledge and expectations in the comprehension and representation of text. His second line of work examines conditions that foster learning from text (with learning defined as building and updating memory for what we read). In a third line, he applies his research findings to the design of effective educational interventions and teaching methodologies. This has included fostering comprehension in struggling readers and the development of novel visualizations for the presentation of complex scientific topics in classroom settings. His applications of this work have been funded by the Institute for Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute on Aging. He is currently coordinator of the Learning Sciences program at Northwestern University.  

2010 - Association for Psychological Science (APS) Fellow

2010 - Tom Trabasso Young Investigator Award, Society for Text and Discourse

2009 - Undergraduate Psychology Association Award for Excellence in Teaching

2008 - Residential College Fellow Assistant Researcher Award (FARA), Northwestern University

2006 - McKnight Land-Grant Professorship Award, University of Minnesota

2002 - The Jason Albrecht Outstanding Young Scientist Award, Society for Text and Discourse


Year Degree Institution
2000 PhD, Experimental Psychology State University of New York, Stony Brook
1996 MA, General Psychology New York University
1994 BA, Psychology State University of New York, Albany

Year Title  
2000 Reader Preferences and the Application of Temporal Situation Models

Selected Publications
Hinze, S.R., Slaten, D.G., Horton, W.S., Jenkins, R., & Rapp, D.N. (2014). Pilgrims Sailing the Titanic: Plausibility effects on memory for facts and errors. Memory & Cognition: 42, 305-324.

Rapp, D.N., Hinze, S.R., Kohlhepp, K., & Ryskin, R.A. (2014). Reducing reliance on inaccurate information. Memory & Cognition: 42, 11-26.

Rapp, D.N., Hinze, S.R., Slaten, D.G., & Horton, W.S. (2014). Amazing stories: Acquiring and avoiding inaccurate information from fiction. Discourse Processes: 1-2, 50-74.

Hinze, S.R., Williamson, V.M., Deslongchamps, G., Shultz, M.J., Williamson, K.C., & Rapp, D.N. (2013). Textbook treatments of electrostatic potential maps in general and organic chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education: 90 (10), 1275–1281.

Hinze, S.R., Rapp, D.N., Williamson, V.M., Shultz, M.J., Deslongchamps, G., & Williamson, K.C. (2013). Beyond the ball-and-stick: Students’ processing of novel STEM visualizations. Learning and Instruction: 26, 12-21.

Hinze, S.R., Williamson, V.M., Shultz, M.J., Williamson, K.C., Deslongchamps, G., & Rapp, D.N. (2013). When do spatial abilities support student comprehension of STEM visualizations?. Cognitive Processing – The International Quarterly of Cognitive Science: 14, 129-142.

Komeda, H., Tsunemi, K., Inohara, K., Kusumi, T., & Rapp, D.N. (2013). Beyond disposition: The processing consequences of explicit and implicit invocations of empathy. Acta Psychologica: 142, 349-355.

Sauter, M., Uttal, D.H., Rapp, D.N., Downing, M., & Jona, K. (2013). Getting real: The authenticity of remote labs and simulations for science learning. Distance Education: 34, 37-47.

Brunyé, T.T., Mahoney, C.R., Rapp, D.N., Ditman, T., & Taylor, H.A. (2012). Caffeine enhances real-world language processing: Evidence from a proofreading task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied: 18, 95-108.

McMaster, K.L., van den Broek, P., Espin, C., White, M.J., Rapp, D.N., Kendeou, P., Bohn-Gettler, C., & Carlson, S. (2012). Making the right connections: Differential effects of reading intervention for subgroups of struggling comprehenders. Learning and Individual Differences: 22, 100-111.

Rapp, D.N. (2011). Comic books’ latest plot twist: Enhancing literacy instruction. Phi Delta Kappan: 93, 64-67.

Bohn-Gettler, C.M., & Rapp, D.N. (2011). Depending on my mood: Mood-driven influences on text comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology: 103, 562-577.

Bohn-Gettler, C.M., Rapp, D.N., van den Broek, P., Kendeou, P., & White, M.J. (2011). Adults’ and children’s monitoring of story events in the service of comprehension. Memory & Cognition: 39, 992-1011.

Jona, K., Roque, R., Skonik, J., Uttal, D., & Rapp, D.N. (2011). Are remote labs worth the cost? Insights from a study of student perceptions of remote labs. International Journal of Online Engineering: 7, 48-53.

Mensink, M.C., & Rapp, D.N. (2011). Evil geniuses: Inferences derived from evidence and preferences. Memory & Cognition: 39, 1103-1116.

Peshkam, A., Mensink, M.C., Putnam, A.L., & Rapp, D.N. (2011). Warning readers to avoid irrelevant information: When being vague might be valuable. Contemporary Educational Psychology: 36, 219-231.

Rapp, D.N., Komeda, H., & Hinze, S.R. (2011). Vivifications of literary investigation. The Scientific Study of Literature: 1, 123-135.

Sparks, J.R., & Rapp, D.N. (2011). Readers’ reliance on source credibility in the service of inference generation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition: 37, 230-247.

White-Schwoch, T., & Rapp, D.N. (2011). Comprehending Comics and Graphic Novels: Watchmen as a Case for Cognition. Sequential Art Narrative In Education: 1, 1-16.

Sparks, J.R., & Rapp, D.N. (2010). Discourse processing – Examining our everyday language experiences. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science: 1, 377-381.

Rapp, D. N., & Kendeou, P. (2009). Noticing and revising discrepancies as texts unfold. Discourse Processes: 1-24.

Kurby, C.A., Magliano, J.P, & Rapp, D.N. (2009). Those voices in your head: The activation of auditory images during reading. Cognition: 112, 457-461.

Brunyé, T., Rapp, D. N. & Taylor, H. A. (2008). Representational flexibility and specificity following spatial descriptions of real world environments. Cognition: 418-443.

Lea, R. B., Rapp, D. N., Elfenbein, A., Mitchel, A. D., & Swinburne-Romine, R. (2008). Sweet silent thought: Alliteration and resonance in poetry comprehension. Psychological Science: 709-716.

Rapp, D. N. (2008). How do readers handle incorrect information during reading?. Memory & Cognition: 688-710.

Maddox, K., Rapp, D. N., Brion, S., & Taylor, H. A. (2008). Social influences on spatial memory. Memory & Cognition: 479-494.

Rapp, D.N., & Kurby, C.A (2008). The ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of learning: Internal representations and external visualizations. in J.K. Gilbert, M. Reiner, & M. Nakhleh (Eds.), Visualization: Theory and Practice in Science Education (pp. 29-52). Springer.

Rapp, D. N., Culpepper, S. A., Kirkby, K., & Morin, P. (2007). Fostering students’ comprehension of topographic maps. Journal of Geoscience Education: 5-16.

Rapp, D. N., van den Broek, P., McMaster, K. L., Kendeou, P., & Espin, C. A. (2007). Higher-order comprehension processes in struggling readers: A perspective for research and intervention. Scientific Studies of Reading: 289-312.

Rapp, D. N. & Kendeou, P. (2007). Revising what readers know: Updating text representations during narrative comprehension. Memory & Cognition: 2019-2032.

Wolf, M. S., Davis, T. C., Shrank, W., Rapp, D. N., Bass, P. F., Connor, U. M., Clayman, M., & Parker, R. M. (2007). To err is human: Patient misinterpretations of prescription drug label instructions. Patient Education and Counseling: 293-300.

Rapp, D. N., & Gerrig, R. J. (2006). Predilections for narrative outcomes: The impact of story contexts and reader preferences . Journal of Memory and Language: 54, 54-67.

Rapp, D.N. (2006). The value of attention aware systems in educational settings. Computers in Human Behavior: 22, 603-614.

Rapp, D.N. (2006). What readers do: Reader-guided processes in discourse comprehension. Information Design Journal: 14, 109-113.

Rapp, D. N., & Uttal, D. H. (2006). Understanding and enhancing visualizations: Two models of collaboration between earth science and cognitive science in Manduca, C. & Mogk, D. (Eds.) , Earth and Mind: How Geologists Think and Learn About the Earth (pp. 121-127). Geological Society of America Press.

Taylor, H.A., & Rapp, D.N. (2006). Updating human spatial memory in M.F. Brown and R.G. Cook (Eds.), Animal Spatial Cognition: Comparative, Neural, and Computational Approaches.

Brunyé, T.T., Taylor, H.A., Rapp, D.N., & Spiro, A.B (2006). Learning procedures: The role of working memory in multimedia learning experiences. Applied Cognitive Psychology: 917-949.

Rapp, D. N., Klug, J. L., & Taylor, H. A. (2006). Character movement and the representation of space during narrative comprehension. Memory & Cognition: 1206-1220.

Rapp, D. N., & Van den Broek, P. (2005). Dynamic text comprehension: An integrative view of reading. Current Directions in Psychological Science: 14, 276-279.

Van den Broek, P., Rapp, D. N., & Kendeou, P. (2005). Integrating memory-based and constructionist processes in accounts of reading comprehension. Discourse Processes: 39, 299-316.

Rapp, D.N. (2005). Mental models: Theoretical issues for visualizations in science education in Gilbert, J.K. (Ed.), Visualization in Science Education  Springer.

Selected Presentations
Rapp, D.N. (April, 2009). Readers' processing of accurate and inaccurate information. Invited talk presented at the University of Pittsburgh,. Pittsburgh, PA.

Lea, R.B., Olson, M., Long, D., & Rapp, D.N (November, 2008). The difference a day makes: Time shifts and memory-based text processing. Poster presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Chicago, IL.
. Chicago, IL.

Sparks, J.R., & Rapp, D.N. (November, 2008). Readers’ inferences from credible and non-credible sources.. Poster presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic society
. Chicago, IL.

Bohn-Gettler, C.M., & Rapp, D.N. (July, 2008). Depending on my mood: Mood-driven influences on “strategic” processes of text comprehension. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse
. Memphis, TN.

Clinton, V., Seipel, B., van den Broek, P., McMaster, K., Rapp, D.N., & White, M.J (July, 2008). Gender differences in elaborative inference generation of fourth grade students. Paper presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the Society for Text and Discourse
. Memphis, TN.

Kurby, C.A. & Rapp, D.N. (July, 2008). Do perceptual representations facilitate comprehension?. Paper presented at the 18th Annual Conference of the Society for Text and Discourse
. Memphis, TN.

Mensink, M.C., Kendeou, P., & Rapp, D.N. (July, 2008). Engagement and exposition: How do introductions influence the processing of scientific explanations? . Paper presented at the 18th annual meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse
. Memphis, TN.

Woehrle, J., Magliano, J., & Rapp, D.N (July, 2008). Anticipatory processes during comprehension of poetry. Paper presented at the 18th annual meeting of the Society for Text and Discourse
. Memphis, TN.

McMaster, K., van den Broek, P., White, M.J., Carlson, S., Rapp, D.N., & Kendeou, P. (June, 2008). Identifying interventions for students who struggle with reading comprehension based on online and offline reading profiles. Poster presented at the 3rd annual Institute of Education Sciences research conference
. Washington, D.C, DC.

Rapp, D. N. (May, 2008). It takes a (multidisciplinary) community: Understanding visualization experiences.. Invited talk at the Visualization in Science Education – Gordon Research Conference planning and review meeting, National Science Foundation,
. Washington, D.C, DC.

McGowan, S.K., & Rapp, D.N. (May, 2008). Spoiler alert: Increasing and decreasing psychological experiences of suspense. Poster presented at the 80th annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association
. Chicago, IL.

Peshkam, A., Kendeou, P., & Rapp, D.N. (May, 2008). Do unusual causes foster careful updating of memory? . Paper presented at the 80th annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association
. Chicago, IL.

Slaten, D., Horton, W.S., & Rapp, D.N. (May, 2008). Learning facts from far-fetched sources. Paper presented to the 80th annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association
. Chicago, IL.

Horton, W.S., & Rapp, D.N. (April, 2008). Updating trait-based models in narrative comprehension by younger and older readers. Paper presented at the 12th Biennial Cognitive Aging conference
. Atlanta, GA.

Bohn-Gettler, C.M., Rapp, D.N (March, 2008). The products and processes of comprehension in middle school children and adults. . Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Consortium for Instruction and Cognition
. New York, NY.

Symposia and Workshops
Year Description
2008 Invited conference participant, A Health Literate America: Where Do Children Fit In?, American Academy of Pediatrics, Washington, DC

2008 Invited panel discussant, Cognitive Learning Science, Professional Development Network, Chicago Chapter of the American Society of Training and Development, Chicago, Illinois

Year Title Source Period Amount Status
2009 Collaborative Proposal: Students’ Attempts at Understanding the Unobservable: A Multi-Method Approach to Visualization Analysis and Design National Science Foundation 2009 - 2012 $~800,000 Pending
PI:     Co-PI: Mary Jane Shultz

2007 Health Literacy and Cognitive Function Among Older Adults National Institute of Aging 2007 - 2010 $1,900,000 Funded
PI:     Wolf, M. S.
My Role: Co-Investigator

2008 Understanding 3-D Topography from 2-D Maps (Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center) seed grant, National Science Foundation 2008 - 2009 $11,684 Funded

2004 Improving Comprehension of Struggling Readers: Connecting Cognitive Science and Educational Practice Institute of Education Sciences 2004 - 2007 $1,500,000 Funded
PI: Rapp, David    Paul van den Broek, Kristen McMaster

2004 Development of Children's Comprehension Processes: Phase IV Longitudinal Study Office of the Associate Dean for Research, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota 2004 - 2006 $24,395 Funded
PI: Rapp, David    Paul van den Broek

2003 Reader Preferences and Narrative Inferences Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, University of Minnesota 2003 - 2005 $19,886 Funded
PI: Rapp, David   

2003 Reinforming Misinformation: The Impact of Visualizations on Prior Knowledge in the Earth Sciences National Science Foundation 2003 - 2005 $5,000 Funded
PI: Rapp, David    Investigators: Panayiota Kendeou, Steve Reynolds, & Paul Morin

2003 A Computer Laboratory for Research on Reading Fluency Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, University of Minnesota 2003 - 2004 $11,738 Funded
PI:     Randy Fletcher, Paul van den Broek
My Role: Co-Investigator along with Andy Elfenbein and Brian Southwell

2001 Spatial Navigation of Multimedia Digital Libraries - An Iterative Approach to Tools and Processes Academic Technology, Tufts University 2001 - 2002 $10,000 Funded
PI: Rapp, David    Holly Taylor

Research Interests
Reading comprehension; memory following learning experiences; updating prior knowledge; the acquisition of accurate and inaccurate information; translation of cognitive science research to educational settings; multimedia learning; visualizations as learning tools.

Lab Affiliations
Reading Comprehension Lab


LOC 346 Psychology of Technology and Instructional Design
LRN_SCI 403 Foundations of the Learning Sciences
LRN_SCI 451 Topics: Acquiring Inaccurate Concepts and Beliefs People learn about the world from what they read and see. They encode and rely upon the information presented from fictional and non-fictional sources, applying the acquired knowledge to solve problems, make decisions, build opinions and arguments, and motivate future activity. This is a good thing when sources provide accurate information as a function of meticulously conducted research, rigorously developed arguments, and carefully constructed prose. However sources can contain inaccuracies, both intentional and unintentional, which people also routinely rely upon from their experiences. What makes this a perplexing problem is that people utilize incorrect information not only when they are unaware it is wrong, but also when they should a priori know or subsequently recognize the information is inaccurate. This seminar will review classic and contemporary literature that describes, explains, and attempts to remediate the phenomenon.


Professional Organizations
2006 - 2006 Society for Text & Discourse

Editorial Boards
Year Journal Name Position
2008 Memory & Cognition Consulting Board Member
2007 Discourse Processes Associate Editor
2006 Mechamedia Consulting Board Member
2004 Computers in Human Behavior Consulting Board Member

Last Updated: 2014-08-28 13:00:01