Placing a text in context

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					Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
2010, 17 (2), 237-242
doi:10.3758/PBR.17.2.237




                                           Placing a text in context
                                                             Debra L. Long
                                              University of California, Davis, California
                                         and University of Central Lancashire, Preston, England
                                                                    anD

                                                             aLice Spooner
                                           University of Central Lancashire, Preston, England

                Can readers accurately retrieve information about the context in which text comprehension occurs? If so, does
             their memory for context vary with their level of comprehension? Participants studied ambiguous passages in
             a high-knowledge or low-knowledge condition. They were then asked to remember the spatial location of indi-
             vidual sentences, the color of a border surrounding the passage, or the color of a shirt worn by the experimenter.
             Recall protocols were collected after participants answered the context question. Knowledge about the topic
             of the text facilitated both contextual retrieval and recall. Moreover, contextual retrieval and recall were corre-
             lated, primarily in the high-knowledge condition. The results suggest that personal experiences accompanying
             comprehension are encoded in memory along with text meaning and have implications for theories of source
             monitoring.



   I know the answer to this question. I read it in my                  sider, for example, an experiment in which participants
   text yesterday at the library. I can see the page in                 are asked to remember a list of words in colored font. The
   my mind.                                                             content of the word (its meaning) and the color in which it
                                                                        appears (context) are processed simultaneously. If partici-
   The experience described above is a familiar one. It                 pants are successful in binding the word with its color, re-
involves our ability to retrieve the content of a text and              trieval of one feature will facilitate retrieval of the other.
the context in which reading occurred (e.g., time, loca-                   In this article, we ask whether memory for the con-
tion). Memory for context is often studied using source-                tent of a text is associated with memory for the context
memory paradigms. Participants are asked to assign a                    in which reading occurred. This question is theoretically
recognized item to a context corresponding to the item’s                interesting, because it highlights an aspect of the SMF that
origin in memory (Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993).                is underspecified. The framework makes straightforward
For example, participants may be asked whether an item                  predictions about the association of content and context
was presented in a particular spatial location, voice, or               when context is a feature of the item’s presentation, as it
color. High rates of item memory are usually associated                 is in most studies of source monitoring. Its predictions are
with high rates of context memory (Conway & Dewhurst,                   less clear, however, when the context is not a feature of
1995; but see Hornstein & Mulligan, 2004).                              the item. For example, a reader might recall ideas from a
   The association between item memory and context                      text and recall that he or she read the text sitting in a blue
memory is explained in an influential theory of episodic                chair. The blue chair is an aspect of the context, but it is
memory called the source monitoring framework (SMF)                     not a feature of the item per se.
(Johnson et al., 1993). According to the SMF, an experi-                   Most theories of reading comprehension explain mem-
ence comprises many features: perceptual (e.g., color),                 ory for the individual ideas in a text as a by-product of
spatial (e.g., location), semantic (e.g., category member-              memory for the text as a whole (Kintsch, 1988, 1998).
ship), and so on. These features can become bound dur-                  Texts have an embedded structure, such that individual
ing processing such that they make up a complex men-                    ideas are integrated to form events and events are inte-
tal representation of an event. The extent of this binding              grated to form still larger events. Text ideas are well re-
determines the likelihood that one memory trace can be                  membered when readers have integrated them into co-
distinguished from another.                                             herent event structures (Zwaan, Magliano, & Graesser,
   In most studies of source memory, the content of an                  1995). We ask whether the ability to integrate text ideas
item and the context in which it appears are part of the                influences the reader’s ability to retrieve contextual details
same perceptual event (Mitchell & Johnson, 2009). Con-                  about the reading episode when the text and the context



                                                      D. L. Long, dllong@ucdavis.edu


                                                                    237                      © 2010 The Psychonomic Society, Inc.
238      Long and Spooner

can be processed simultaneously and when features of the          prehension. In the low-knowledge condition, participants
context do not accompany presentation of the text.                received either no relevant knowledge or too little in-
   The relation between text memory and cont
				
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Description: Can readers accurately retrieve information about the context in which text comprehension occurs? If so, does their memory for context vary with their level of comprehension? Participants studied ambiguous passages in a high-knowledge or low-knowledge condition. They were then asked to remember the spatial location of individual sentences, the color of a border surrounding the passage, or the color of a shirt worn by the experimenter. Recall protocols were collected after participants answered the context question. Knowledge about the topic of the text facilitated both contextual retrieval and recall. Moreover, contextual retrieval and recall were correlated, primarily in the high-knowledge condition. The results suggest that personal experiences accompanying comprehension are encoded in memory along with text meaning and have implications for theories of source monitoring. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT]
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