Abstract: Improving written communication through minimal feedback

TRAXLER, M. J., & GERNSBACHER, M. A. (1992). Improving written communication through minimal feedback. Language and Cognitive Processes, 7, 1-22.

We propose that writers must form accurate representations of how their readers will interpret their texts to convey their ideas successfully. In two experiments, we investigated whether getting feedback from their readers helps writers form better representations of how their texts are interpreted. In our first experiment, one group of subjects (writers) wrote descriptions of a set of geometric figures; another group of subjects (readers) read those descriptions and used them to select the figures from sets of similar looking distracter figures. Half the writers received feedback on how well their readers selected the figures, and half the writers did not receive this feed-back. Those writers who received feedback improved their descriptions more than those writets who did not receive feedback. In our second experiment, half the writers received two treatments of feedback on thek descriptions of one set of figures, whereas the other half of the writers did not receive feedback. Then, all the writers described a new set of figures. Those writers who had previously received feedback write better new descriptions than did those writers who had never received feedback. We concluded that feedback – even this minimal form of feedback – helps writers to envision how readers interpret their texts.