Character movement and the representation of space during narrative comprehension

David N. Rapp*, Jessica L. Klug, Holly A. Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Traditional research on situation models has examined the accessibility of locations and objects during narrative experiences. These studies have described a ubiquitous gradient effect: Spatial locations and objects in reader focus are more accessible than locations farther from this focus, with accessibility decreasing as a function of distance. How might readers' expectations about character movement, beyond information about spatial locations, additionally affect this accessibility gradient? In two experiments, we investigated whether reader expectations for character movement impact the accessibility of spatial information from memory. In Experiment 1, participants read stories that described characters moving in either a unidirectional or a random pattern through a learned environment. In Experiment 2, characters moved forward in a unidirectional way or backtracked through previously explored rooms. The results suggest that reader expectations for character movement can influence the accessibility of spatial information. Such expectations play a critical role in processes of narrative comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1206-1220
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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