The author summarizes his evolving interests from conditioning studies within a behaviorist orientation, thence to human memory, knowledge representation, and narrative understanding and memory. Arguing that the study of skilled reading provides a microcosm for revealing cognitive processes, he illustrates this by reviewing his research on the use of spatial priming to investigate readers’ on-line updating of their situational models of texts. Conceptual entities close to the reader's focus of attention within the model are readily retrieved. Retrieval speed from memory declines with the probed object's distance from the current focus and decays with time elapsed in the narrative since the item was last in focus. The focus effect varies with the character's perspective, his status in the story, his active goals, and other factors. The results are accommodated within an associative network model distinguishing just-read sentences in short-term memory from activated portions of long-term memory structures to which they refer.


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