Abstract: Three models of discourse comprehension

GERNSBACHER, M. A., & FOERTSCH, J. (1999). Three models of discourse comprehension. In S. Garrod & M. Pickering (Eds.), Language processing (pp. 283-299). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.
[view PDF]

Over the last two decades, language processing researchers have proposed models to explain how it is that people come to understand connected text and spoken language, a medium known as discourse. Many questions arise, such as how do comprehenders build mental representations of discourse? How do comprehenders link the elements of discourse with information that they already know? How do comprehenders retrieve information from their representation of a discourse? In this chapter, we shall describe three models of discourse comprehension that have come to dominate the field of psycholinguistics: Kintsch and van Dijk’s ever-evolving model of text comprehension (1978; van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983), presently under the name of the Construction-Integration Model (Kintsch, 1988; 1990); Sanford and Garrod’s Memory-Focus Model (1981, 1994a, 1994b), and Gernsbacher’s Structure Building Framework (1990; 1991; 1997). Because we are intimately familiar with the latter model, we shall spend more time reviewing it than the others.