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Reading rate and retention as a function of the number of propositions in the base structure of sentences

Authors
Journal
Cognitive Psychology
0010-0285
Publisher
Elsevier
Publication Date
Volume
5
Issue
3
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/0010-0285(73)90036-4
Disciplines
  • Linguistics
  • Psychology

Abstract

Abstract English texts were constructed from propositional bases. One set of 16-word sentences was obtained from semantic bases containing from 4 to 9 propositions. For another set of sentences and paragraphs, number of words and number of propositions covaried. Subjects read the texts at their own rate and recalled them immediately. For the 16-word sentences, subjects needed 1.5 sec additional reading time to process each proposition. For longer texts, this value increased. In another experimental condition reading time was controlled by the experimenter. The analysis of both the text and the recall protocols in terms of number of propositions lent support to the notion that propositions are a basic unit of memory for text. However, evidence was also obtained that while the total number of propositions upon which a text was based proved to be an effective psychological variable, all propositions were not equally difficult to remember: superordinate propositions were recalled better than propositions which were stucturally subordinate.

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