Updating situation models during reading of news reports: Evidence from empirical data and simulations

Nathalie Blanc, Panayiota Kendeou, Paul Van Den Broek, Denis Brouillet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Two studies explored the conditions under which readers update their representation of news reports in the presence of alternative plausible explanations for a target event. To do so, this study asked readers to read news reports that mentioned 2 different causes to explain the occurrence of a single event. This study manipulated which of the 2 causes was emphasized at the end of the news report. Experiment 1, through an inference judgment task and a simulation using the Landscape Model, evaluated which of the 2 potential causes was represented in the readers' final situation model. Experiment 2 collected think-aloud protocols to investigate the content of readers' thoughts when they were faced with alternative plausible explanations in accounts of a single event. The findings indicate that readers update their representation as new causes appear in the text but that the nature of the updating is a function of the order of presentation of the causes: They either select 1 cause over another or draw causal inferences between the 2 causes to maintain the coherence of their situation models under construction. These findings are discussed within the theoretical framework of the Landscape Model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)103-121
Number of pages19
JournalDiscourse Processes
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2008

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