GERNSBACHER, M. A., ROBERTSON, R. R. W., PALLADINO, P., & WERNER, N. K. (2004). Managing mental representations during narrative comprehension. Discourse Processes, 37, 145-164.
Three experiments investigated how readers manage their mental representations during narrative comprehension. The first experiment investigated whether readers’ access to their mental representations of the main character in a narrative becomes enhanced (producing a “benefit”) when the character is rementioned; the first experiment also investigated whether readers’ access to the main character in a narrative becomes weakened or interfered with (producing a “cost”) when a new character is introduced. The purpose of the second experiment was to ensure that there was nothing unusually salient about the accessibility of names; thus, we assessed readers’- access to an object associated with the main character rather than the character’s name. Again, readers demonstrated increased accessibility to the main character when it was rementioned in the narrative, and readers demonstrated reduced accessibility to the main character when a new character was introduced. A third experiment compared more-skilled and less-skilled readers’ abilities to manage these mental representations during narrative comprehension. Findings were consistent with research suggesting that more-skilled readers are more skilled at attenuating interfering information (i.e. suppression). Data from all 3 experiments suggest that successful narrative comprehension involves managing mental representations of salient and often times interfering characters.