Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

A "Landscape" Model of Reading Comprehension: Inferential Processes and the Construction of a Stable Memory Representation

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

A "Landscape" Model of Reading Comprehension: Inferential Processes and the Construction of a Stable Memory Representation

Article excerpt

A central component of successful reading comprehension is the construction of a coherent memory representation of the text. Such are presentation results from inferential processes by which the reader identifies relations between parts of the text. A considerable amount of research has been devoted to properties of the on-line inferential processes and the memory representation of texts, respectively, but much less is known about the relation between on-line processes and memory representation.

The theoretical model of reading proposed in this paper captures the processes that take place during reading and specifies how these processes result in a stable memory representation of the text. The model is based on the premise that, during reading, the ideas and concepts associated with the text fluctuate in their activation. The result is a dynamically shifting landscape of activations. Two factors contribute to the shape of this landscape: readers' limited attentional resources and their attempts to maintain standards for coherence. As a result, at any point during reading the following concepts are most likely to be activated: information described in or associated to the current sentence, information retained from the prior reading cycle, and information that is reinstated from prior text or drawn from background knowledge in order to maintain coherence. Readers' standards for coherence vary between as well as within individuals (e.g., as a function of reading goal), but here the focus is on two types of coherence that seem to be employed by the modal reader: anaphoric/referential and causal coherence.

There is considerable empirical evidence that readers evidence information from prior text or background knowledge when required to maintains referential or causal coherence: Subjects consistently respond more quickly to probes that reflect required information than to probes of non-required information. The process component of the landscape model specifies how these standards of coherence lead to continuously fluctuating activations. This component was tested in an on-line study, in which subjects indicated the activation of a large number of concepts at each point in a text. Subjects strongly agreed with each other and with the theoretical model on the degree of activation for the concepts. Thus, results from judgement and speeded tasks provide convergent evidence for the role of anaphoric and causal coherence in determining the activation of concepts. …

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