Readers' reality-driven and plot-driven analyses in narrative comprehension

David N. Rapp, Richard J. Gerrig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


We suggest that when readers experience narratives, their expectations about the likelihood of narrative events are informed by two types of analyses. Reality-driven analyses incorporate real-world constraints involving, for example, time and space; plot-driven analyses incorporate concerns about outcomes that emerge from the plot. We explored the interaction of these two types of analyses in the application of temporal situation models. Participants read stories in which the final episode occurred after a minute time shift (i.e., "A minute later…") or hour time shift (i.e., "An hour later…"). Our experiments assessed participants' judgments and reading times for statements describing the state of events (e.g., the possibility that characters could carry out particular behaviors) following each type of time shift. Experiments 1A and 1B demonstrated that readers are appropriately sensitive to the real concomitants of time shifts. Experiments 2A and 2B demonstrated, even so, that plot-driven preferences modify judgments and reading times away from reality-driven expectations. Our results have implications for the role of the reader in theories of narrative comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-788
Number of pages10
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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