What makes information accessible during or after narrative comprehension?

Tom Trabasso, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago

November 28, 2000


Biography

What information has been activated or is accessible to the reader or listener during comprehension has been a central question of psychologists who study discourse using experimental methods. However, experimenters frequently rely upon informal or intuitive analyses of their texts to make claims about findings . This talk shows that such claims are often misleading or wrong in that they admit of alternative explanations. To do this, the question of what makes information accessible during or after reading narratives is addressed by examining three cases: (1) decision making by Kahneman and Tversky (1982), (2) pronominal reference by Greene, Gerrig, McKoon, and Ratcliff, (1994), and (3) map representations of space (Rinck & Bower, 1995). Using a three-pronged approach of (1) an explicit discourse analysis and (2)a connectionist model to predict (3) behavioral measures in these studies, explanatory (causal) reasoning is shown to provide a unifying account of how alternatives, references, or spatial locations in narrative texts are represented and accessed during or after comprehension. The importance of explicit discourse analysis is supported by the success of the three-pronged approach.