Sweet silent thought: Alliteration and resonance in poetry comprehension: Research article

R. Brooke Lea, David N. Rapp, Andrew Elfenbein, Aaron D. Mitchel, Russell Swinburne Romine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Poetic devices like alliteration can heighten readers' aesthetic experiences and enhance poets' recall of their epic pieces. The effects of such devices on memory for and appreciation of poetry are well known; however, the mechanisms underlying these effects are not yet understood. We used current theories of language comprehension as a framework for understanding how alliteration affects comprehension processes. Across three experiments, alliterative cues reactivated readers' memories for previous information when it was phonologically similar to the cue. These effects were obtained when participants read aloud and when they read silently, and with poetry and prose. The results support everyday intuitions about the effects of poetry and aesthetics, and explain the nature of such effects. These findings extend the scope of general memory models by indicating their capacity to explain the influence of nonsemantic discourse features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-716
Number of pages8
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008


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