Predilections for narrative outcomes: The impact of story contexts and reader preferences

David N. Rapp*, Richard J. Gerrig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


As readers experience narratives, they have ample opportunities to generate expectations about likely outcomes. We suggest that past research on such expectations has ignored the extent to which readers bring their own preferences to bear on those outcomes. In four experiments, we demonstrate that reader preferences can influence expectations for future narrative events. In Experiments 1 and 2, readers made explicit judgments about the likelihood of narrative outcomes. They tended to agree with outcomes consistent with prior story contexts but also consistent with preferences. In Experiments 3 and 4, we provide converging evidence for these effects by analyzing reading times for outcomes. Participants were slower to read outcomes inconsistent with prior story contexts and preferences. Our results suggest that theories of narrative comprehension must include some notion of reader wishes and desires to adequately describe the types of outcome expectations readers use during narrative experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)54-67
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Comprehension
  • Narrative comprehension
  • Predictive inference
  • Reading
  • Text processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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