Out of sight, out of mind: Occlusion and the accessibility of information in narrative comprehension

William S. Horton*, David N. Rapp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Do readers encode the perceptual perspectives of characters during narrative comprehension? To address this question, we conducted two experiments using stories that sometimes described situations in which certain information was occluded from the protagonists' views. We generated two related hypotheses concerning the potential impact of occlusion events on text representations. One, the event boundary hypothesis, suggested that any salient narrative event would reduce the accessibility of prior story information. The second, the perceptual availability hypothesis, suggested that accessibility would decrease most for information no longer visible to story protagonists. In Experiment 1, the participants were slowest to respond to verification questions that asked about occluded information. In Experiment 2, we demonstrated that this effect did not extend to other, nonoccluded information. These results suggest that readers encode text information from the perceptual perspective of story protagonists. This is consistent with recent perceptual symbol views of language comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-110
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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