Abstract: First mention drives how people read and comprehend language

GERNSBACHER, M. A. (1997). First mention drives how people read and comprehend language. In Writing and reading today: An interdisciplinary discussion. Reston, VA: American Society of Newspaper Editors.
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Language involves many general cognitive processes, and I’ve been trying to explore in my research what general cognitive processes underlie language behavior and language comprehension. About a decade ago I began developing a very simple framework, the structure- building framework, that describes the comprehension process in a general way. According to the structure-building framework, the goal of comprehension is to build coherent mental representation, or structure of the information being comprehended.

Three component processes are involved. First, comprehenders lay a foundation for the mental structure that they are developing. Next, comprehenders develop the structure by mapping on incoming information, when that incoming information coheres, or relates to the previous information. However, if the incoming information is less coherent or related, I propose that comprehenders employ a different process, that is, they shift and initiate or build a new substructure. So most mental representations comprise several branching substructures.