Do seductive details interfere with your comprehension?
Yes. People are often distracted by interesting, yet, unimportant noise.
In the study below the ability to recall the important information was significantly influenced by whether the reading contained seductive details. How large was the influence? Those who read without seductive details could recall 93% of the important generalizations. However, of those who read with the seductive details only 43% could recall the important elements.
Twenty adults were asked to read a three-paragraph expository text on differences among insects. Information in the text had been rated for importance and interestingness. Half of the adults read the text with “seductive details” (propositions presenting interesting, but unimportant, information), half without. After reading, the adults recalled the important information (a macroprocessing task), rated the text for overall interestingness, reported the single most interesting piece of information read, and matched pictures of animals on the basis of differences mentioned in text (a microprocessing task). The adults presented with seductive details in text were significantly less adept than their peers at including three main ideas in their recall protocols. Microprocessing performance and interestingness ratings were unaffected by text condition. In a second study, with 36 seventh graders, macroprocessing performance in general was weak. Students presented with seductive details in text were significantly less adept at macroprocessing than students given no such irrelevant information and given redundant signaling of the main ideas. Microprocessing success of seventh graders was also affected by the presence of seductive details. Results are examined in the context of current theories of expository text processing.
Source: Garner, Ruth, Mark G. Gillingham and C . Stephen White. 1989. Effects of ‘Seductive Details’ on Macroprocessing and Microprocessing in Adults and Children. Cognition and Instruction. 6(1):41-57.