On-line processing of the topic structure of a text

Robert F. Lorch, Elizabeth Pugzles Lorch, Patricia D. Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Subjects in two experiments read two texts while their sentence reading times were recorded. Each text discussed 12 related topics. Across the two experiments, reading times on the sentences introducing the topics were affected by three manipulations: (1) Reading times were shorter if the new topic was directly related to the immediately preceding topic than if it was not directly related. (2) Reading times were shorter if an introductory paragraph was informative rather than uninformative about the topic structure of the text. (3) Reading times were longer if subjects outlined the introductory paragraph than if they did not outline. The results suggest that readers construct a representation of the topic structure of the text as they read.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)350-362
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1985

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Jennifer Donahue for her help in collecting these data. This research was supported by a University of Kentucky Research Foundation Grant, and by two UKRF Faculty Summer Fellowships to the first author. Requests for reprints should be addressed to Robert F. Larch, Jr., Department of Psychology, Kastle Hall, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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