The interaction between textual structures and prior knowledge: Hypotheses, data and simulations


  • Caillies S
  • Denhiere G

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Our purpose was to compare the effect of two types of textual semantic coherence - causal and teleological - oil the organization of the mental representation elaborated after reading by learners with different levels of prior knowledge. Beginners, Intermediates and Advanced in computer domain read either the causal or the teleological version of a text describing three functions of a text editor, then performed a cued recall and a recognition task. We assumed that Advanced learners build a mental representation of the domain organized in a hierarchical goal/sub-goals structure, whereas Beginners and Intermediates have a mental representation organized in a causal path. If this is so, the results should indicate a significant interaction between prior knowledge and the semantic coherence of the texts: for the Advanced learners, recall and recognition of the teleological text should be better, whereas for the Beginners and Intermediates, the reverse was expected. As we assumed, results indicated that a teleological organization of textual information facilitated the comprehension of Advanced participants while a temporal-causal organization facilitated the comprehension of Beginner and Intermediate participants. The Construction-Integration model of Kintsch (1988, 1998) was used to simulate the recall results and to reproduce the effect of prior knowledge on the retrieval of textual information.

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