The effects of readers’ goals on inference generation and memory for texts

Abstract

We investigated the effects of readers’ goals on inference generation and memory for expository text. College students (N = 82) read texts for the purpose of either study or entertainment. On-line inference generation was recorded via think-aloud procedures, and off-line memory was assessed via free recall. Reading goal strongly influenced inferential activity: Readers with a study goal produced more coherence-building (i.e., backward/explanatory and forward/predictive) inferences, whereas readers with an entertainment goal produced more associations and evaluations. These differences were associated with superior memory for the texts in the study condition. The results indicate that inference generation during reading is partly strategic and is influenced systematically by reading purpose. We propose that reading goals influence readers’standards of coherence, which in turn influence the types of inferences that they draw and the final memory representations that they construct.

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Correspondence to Paul van den Broek.

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This research was supported by the Center for Cognitive Sciences at the University of Minnesota through a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD-07151), by the Guy Bond Endowment for Reading and Literacy, and by a Golestan fellowship at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences to the first author.

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van den Broek, P., Lorch, R.F., Linderholm, T. et al. The effects of readers’ goals on inference generation and memory for texts. Memory & Cognition 29, 1081–1087 (2001). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03206376

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Keywords

  • Free Recall
  • Inference Generation
  • Reading Task
  • Text Comprehension
  • Discourse Process