Short-term memory processes in text comprehension

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Because of the limited capacity of the short-term, working memory system texts must be processed one sentences or major clause at a time in cycles. This cyclical processing strategy eliminates the limited capacity problem but creates a new one; namely: How does a reader maintain the coherence of a text which must be processed in fragments? Kintsch and van Dijk (1978) have suggested that part of short-term memory is set aside as a buffer in which propositions from earlier processing cycles are held over the guide the integration of new propositions into the long-term representation of the text as a whole. Two experiments are presented which provide empirical support for this claim. Using the kintsch and van Dijk (Psychological Review, 1978, 85, 363-394) model to predict which propositions would be selected for inclusion in the short-term buffer, it was demonstrated that selected propositions are more available to subjects than unselected propositions from the same part of the text, and that the latter are no more availabe than unselected propositions from earlier in the text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-574
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1981

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This report is based on a master's thesis presented to the Graduate School of the University of Colorado and was supported by National Institute of Mental Health Grant 15872 to Walter Kintsch. I would like to thank Walter Kintsch, Jim Miller, Lyle Bourne, Peter Poison, Bill Walker, Steve Antos, and Lisa Van der Veer for their many helpful comments. Reprint requests should be sent to Charles R. Fletcher, Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309.

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