Flying to Neverland: How Readers Tacitly Judge Norms during Comprehension

By Foy, Jeffrey E.; Gerrig, Richard J. | Memory & Cognition, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Flying to Neverland: How Readers Tacitly Judge Norms during Comprehension


Foy, Jeffrey E., Gerrig, Richard J., Memory & Cognition


Published online: 28 June 2014

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract As readers gain experience with specific narrative worlds, they accumulate information that allows them to experience events as normal or unusual within those worlds. In this article, we contrast two accounts for how readers access information about specific narrative worlds to make tacit judgments of normalcy. We conducted two experiments. In Experiment 1, participants read stories about an ordinary character (e.g., a police officer in Boston) or a familiar fantastic character (e.g., Superman). Each story described a realistic event (e.g., the character being killed by bullets) or a fantastic event (e.g., bullets bouncing off the character's chest). Participants were faster to read events that were consistent with their prior knowledge about the story world. In Experiments 2a and 2b, participants read stories about familiar fantastic characters, unfamiliar fantastic characters (e.g., a Kryptonian named Dev-em), and unfamiliar ordinary characters. In Experiment 2a, participants were equally fast to read about the familiar and unfamiliar fantastic characters experiencing fantastic events, both of which were read faster than the unfamiliar ordinary characters sentences. In Experiment 2b, participants were fastest to read about unfamiliar ordinary characters experiencing realistic events and were equally slow for familiar and unfamiliar fantastic characters. Our experiments provide evidence that readers routinely use inductive reasoning to go beyond their prior knowledge when reading fictional narratives, affecting whether they experience events as normal or unusual.

Keywords Narratives * Comprehension * Norms * Inductive reasoning * Fiction

One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading fictional narra- tives is that they provide readers the opportunity to mentally travel to other worlds (Gerrig, 1993). Each narrative world is subject to a unique set of constraints (Dolezel, 1988; Pavel, 1975; Weisberg & Goodstein, 2009). Consider the following excerpt from Peter Pan (1911/2008):

"It's all right," John announced, emerging from his hiding-place. "I say, Peter, can you really fly?"

Instead of troubling to answer him Peter flew around the room, taking the mantelpiece on the way. (p. 19)

This passage transports readers to a world in which one character, at least, can fly. As people continue reading, they have opportunities to see how far this ability generalizes beyond Peter himself. In this article, we explore how readers use their prior knowledge about familiar characters to com- prehend new events within a narrative world. Specifically, we focus on whether readers generalize salient characteristics from familiar characters (e.g., Peter Pan) to unfamiliar char- acters (e.g., another Lost Boy).

Current theories of comprehension focus on activation of information in memory and the integration of that information with the incoming discourse (for a review, see McNamara & Magliano, 2009). An important component of comprehension is the process of validation, in which readers check incoming information against prior knowledge (e.g., Cook & O'Brien, 2014; Rapp, Hinze, Slaten, & Horton, 2014; for reviews, see Kendeou, 2014, and Singer, 2013). For example, Cook and O'Brien found that readers immediately slow down when they encounter information that is strongly inconsistent with prior knowledge (e.g., a vegetarian eating a cheeseburger) but that readers take longer to notice weaker inconsistencies (e.g., a vegetarian eating fish). As this example indicates, validation research has often shown that there is a cost, in terms of slower processing or different patterns of neural activity (e.g., Hagoort, Haid, Bastiaansen, & Petersson, 2004) when incom- ing information mismatches prior knowledge.

We can return to Peter Pan to offer additional analysis on the question of how readers experience new story information as matching or mismatching prior knowledge. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Flying to Neverland: How Readers Tacitly Judge Norms during Comprehension
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.