An on-line assessment of causal reasoning during comprehension

Charles P. Bloom, Charles R. Fletcher, Paul Van Den Broek, Laura Reitz, Brian P. Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Fletcher and Bloom (1988) have argued that as readers read narratives, clause by clause, they repeatedly focus their attention on the last preceding clause that contains antecedents but no consequences in the text. This strategy allows them to discover a causal path linking the text's opening to its final outcome while minimizing the number of times long-term memory must be searchedfor missing antecedents or consequences. In order to test this hypothesis, we examined the reading times of 25 subjects for each clause ofeight simple narrative texts. The results show that: (1) causal links between clauses that co-occur in short-term memory (as predicted by the strategy) increase the time required to read the second clause (2)-poten-tiaicausal links between clauses that never co-occur in short-term memory (again as predicted by the strategy) have no effect on reading time; and (3) reinstatement searches are initiated-at-the-end-of-sentences thatare causally unrelated to the contents of short-term memory or that contain clauses that satisf~, goals no longer in short-term memory. These results support the claim that subjects engage in a form of causal reasoning when they read simple narrative texts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-71
Number of pages7
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990

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