Depth of comprehension, effective elaboration, and memory for sentences

Research paper by Rosemary J. Stevenson

Indexed on: 01 Mar '81Published on: 01 Mar '81Published in: Memory & Cognition


It was hypothesized that depth of comprehension is a function of the complexity of the meaning components of a sentence that are activated during initial encoding. In four experiments, subjects were presented sentences containing either transitive causative verbs (e.g., “John opened the door”) or their intransitive noncausative counterparts (e.g., “The door opened”) and were required to produce a continuation to each sentence. Based on the above hypothesis, sentences for which the continuations induced causative interpretations should be remembered better than sentences for which noncausitive interpretations were induced. The results confirmed this hypothesis, and they are considered in relation to depth of comprehension, effective elaboration, and the role of inferences in memory for sentences.