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The Psychology Newsletter for Spring 2013 (.PDF, 690 KB) covers updates for the Science IV and V Buildings, profiles some of our faculty and alumni (both Graduate & Undergraduate), and highlights our Honors students and awards winners from 2012.


Language comprehension

Celia Klin, PhD

The primary goal of my research is to work toward a theory that specifies how readers comprehend text. A complete theory of discourse comprehension will have to specify the nature of the memory representation that readers create, as well as the cognitive processes involved in building that representation. As a starting point, we know that readers' representation of a narrative does not simply include the information explicitly stated in the narrative. Readers incorporate information from general knowledge, make connections between ideas that are physically distant in the text, keep some aspects of the text more active in memory than others and so on. The goal of my research is to work toward a theory that specifies the processes involved in building a discourse representation, accounting for all of the relevant text and reader characteristics.

Despite the complexities involved in studying a higher-level process such as discourse processing, my work has been guided by a "bottom-up" framework based on the premise that many of the processes underlying discourse comprehension are automatic. According to this view, sometimes referred to as a memory-based text processing view, each text input (i.e., word or clause) automatically causes related information in memory to become activated. A subset of those reactivated concepts is then integrated in a subsequent stage. Although there are clearly processes involved in reading that are strategic, it is the automatic components of discourse processing that are most amenable to scientific study, and thus provide a good starting point. Further, this approach simplifies the study of a complex phenomenon and provides a useful bridge between the field of discourse comprehension and the broader field of memory research; a central tenet of the memory-based text processing framework is that text inputs act like any other input to memory. Thus, in addition to working toward the specific goal of understanding discourse comprehension, my research contributes more generally to the study of memory.

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Last Updated: 3/22/11