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Frameworks For Comprehending Discourse

Richard C. Anderson, Ralph E. Reynolds, Diane L. Schallert, Ernest T. Goetz

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Thirty physical education students and 30 music education students read a passage that could be given either a prison break or a wrestling interpretation, and another passage that could be understood in terms of an evening of card playing or a rehearsal session of a woodwind ensemble. Scores on disambiguating multiple choice tests and theme-revealing disambiguations and intrusions in free recall showed striking relationships to the subject’s background. These results indicate that high-level schemata provide the interpretative framework for comprehending discourse. The fact that most subjects gave each passage one distinct interpretation or another and reported being unaware of other perspectives while reading suggest that schemata can cause a person to see a message in a certain way, without even considering alternative interpretations.