GERNSBACHER, M. A., & ROBERTSON, R. R. W. (1992). Knowledge activation versus sentence mapping when representing fictional characters’ emotional states. Language and Cognitive Processes, 7, 353-371.
We investigated the role that knowledge activation and sentence mapping play in how readers represent fictional characters’ emotional states. Subjects read stories that described concrete actions, such as a main character stealing money from a store where his best friend worked and later learning that his friend had been fired. By manipulating the content of the stories (i.e., writing stories that implied different emotional states), we affected what emotional knowledge would be activated. Following each story, subjects read a target sentence that contained an emotion word. By manipulating the emotion word in each target sentence (i.e., whether it matched vs mismatched the emotional state implied by the story), we affected how easily subjects could map the target sentence onto their developing mental structures. In Experiment 1, we further isolated the role of knowledge activation from the role of sentence mapping with a density manipulation. When subjects read many emotional stories, they more widely activated their knowledge of emotional states. Using a proportionality manipulation in Experiment 2, we demonstrated that this result was not due to subjects’ strategies.