Text genres and mental models: What readers get from text and how they use it.

Year: 1993

Author: Ohtsuka, Keis

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study examined: (1) how and to what extent text genres influence the characteristics of mental models readers build from text; (2) whether the characteristics of mental models change if the subjects know the nature of questions that will follow the reading session. Seventy undergraduates, read one of the three text genres, descriptive, procedural, or narrative that were based on the same underlying information and later answered three types of inference questions about spatial information. The three types of inference questions were constructed so that each question type would be more similar than the other two question types to the characteristics of a model derived from the text. Accuracy scores and response time data showed that the mental models derived from the descriptive text showed two- dimensional characteristics, whereas the models built from the other two genres were one-dimensional. The results were similar to those from the previous study (Ohtsuka, 1990). When the subjects were asked to read a different text genre for the second time, however, the effect of text genre became statistically nonsignificant. The results indicate that the subjects were able to build optimal mental models for answering questions when they could anticipate the content of questions. The findings suggest that mental models built from text are flexible representations that readers actively manipulate rather than static, rigid structures that simply hold the textual information for retrieval.