Georgia Southern College Abstract Standard automobile policies

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					                    Journal of Literacy Research
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Ease of Comprehension of Standard and Readable Automobile Insurance Policies as a Function of
                                      Reading Ability
                                     J. Peter Kincaid and Louis G. Gamble
                                    Journal of Literacy Research 1977 9: 85
                                      DOI: 10.1080/10862967709547208

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                             BRIEF RESEARCH REPORT


                EASE OF COMPREHENSION OF STANDARD AND
              READABLE AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICIES AS A
                      FUNCTION OF READING ABILITYa


                         J. Peter Kincaid and Louis G. Gamble
                                Georgia Southern College

       Abstract. Standard automobile policies which are hard to understand were
       compared with passages from the new readable policies. Passages were
       selected from policies issued by two major insurance companies.
       Comprehension of the passages was tested using the cloze procedure. One
       hundred and fifty college and high school students were divided into three
       reading ability groups using the comprehension section of the Gates-Mac-
       Ginitie Reading Test, Form F. The best readers could understand all passages
       [according to a thirty-five percent score on the cloze test). The average
       readers could understand the readable but not the standard passages. The
       poor readers could not understand any of the passages. All groups did better
       with the readable passages than with the standard passages.


     This paper examines the relationship between the readability of automobile
insurance policies and how easily they can be understood. The study was
prompted by the fact that several insurance companies have developed
insurance policies which are easier to read than the traditional policies. The
standard policy contains confusing legal terminology and conveys little meaning
to the average policy purchaser.
     The relationship between readability and comprehension of narrative
material has been thoroughly reviewed by Klare (1963, 1975). The relationship is
clear: more readable material is typically easier to understand.
     A recent study (Gamble and Kincaid, 1976) examined the comprehensibility
(level of comprehension) of easy-to-read auto insurance policies. The study
a
 This study is based on a thesis conducted by the second author and directed by the first
author. Thanks are due Richard Rogers for statistical advice and for a critical reading of
an earlier draft. Reprints or a full report may be obtained by writing Dr. Kincaid at: Dept.
of Psychology, Georgia Southern College, Statesboro, GA, 30458.

                                                    85




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86                                                         Journal of Reading Behavior 1977IX, 1

showed that while superior readers could understand even the most difficult
passages, average readers could only understand passages from the new
readable policies. Rankin andCulhane (1969) established the thirty-five per cent
correct mark on the cloze test as representing the lowest limit of comprehension.
    Passages were taken from Nationwide's Century I (standard or
hard-to-read) and Century II (newer easy-to-read) auto insurance policies. The
former study was basically a preliminary study to the present one.

                                               METHOD
Subjects

     A total of 150 local high school and college students served as subjects, 50 in
each of three groups. The assignment to groups was based on the student's score
on the comprehension subtest of the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, Form F.
These groups were (1) college level readers, N = 45, (s) average readers, N =
35, and (3) junior high level readers, N = 18. Most of the lower group were from
10th-12th grades in high school. Most of the college level readers were
Introductory Psychology student volunteers from Georgia Southern College. The
middle group was a mixture of these two groups.

Materials

      Two matching auto policies were selected from each of two insurance
companies, Nationwide and Sentry. Four auto policies were examined: the two
from Sentry were the "Sentry Auto Policy" and the "Plain Talk Car Policy,"
while Nationwide's policies were the "Century Auto Policy" (Auto 4807-B-4-73)
and the "Century II Auto Policy" (Auto 600-12-74).
     Three passages on different topics were chosen from each company's
policies. The information contained in each set of two passages (one from the
standard and one from the readable policy) was judged to be the same. In
addition to the passages published by the two companies, an even more readable
version of each topic was written at the eighth to ninth grade level of reading
difficulty.

Procedure

      Subjects were presented a test booklet containing six insurance policy
passages (three from each company's policies) and the comprehension subtest
from the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, Form F. The passages were prepared
leaving out every fifth word. Subjects filled in the missing words. A score of
thirty-five per cent on a passage indicated that the subject comprehended the
passage.




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 Kincaid, Gamble                                                                                 87

    Only the correct words were tallied on each passage. This is the 'strict
method' of scoring cloze tests and is used more frequently than the 'lenient
method' which allows synonyms. Misspellings were counted as correct.

                                            RESULTS

     The three main factors (Reading Ability, Insurance Companies, and
Readability of Passages) were found to be significant at at least the .05 level of
significance according to the analysis of variance. The results are summarized in
Table 1.
                                 TabJe 1
 Mean Comprehension (Cloze Scores) by Reading Ability and Passage Difficulty

                                                                   Passage Difficulty
Reading Ability                                             Standard Easy-to-Read Rewritten

College Level                                                   37.0                   46.8   54.3
Average                                                         22.6                   36.8   43.7
Junior High                                                      9.7                   18.6   24.2


                                        DISCUSSION

      The results largely confirmed those of Gamble and Kincaid (1976). Both
studies showed the best readers (college level) could understand even the most
difficult standard insurance policy material. Average readers could understand
the readable passages. Junior high level readers could not comprehend even the
easiest, most readable passages.
      Regardless of the regulations imposed by the states' insurance commission-
ers and the evolution of more readable consumer-oriented policies by the
insurance companies, the introduction of more readable insurance policies
cannot come too soon. This study demonstrated that the more readable policies
are easier to understand.

                                         REFERENCES

GAMBLE, L. G., & KINCAID, J. P. The new readable insurance policies: How easy are
   they to understand? Human Factors Society Bulletin, 1976, 19(3), 4-5.
KLARE, G. R. The Measurement of Readability. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press,
   1963.
KLARE, G. R. Assessing readability. Reading Research Quarterly, 1975, 10, 62-102.
RANKIN, E. F., & CULHANE, J. O. Comparable cloze and multiple choice test scores.
   Journal of Reading, 1969, 13, 193-198.




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