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11.4: Processing Frameworks

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    In the process of language and text comprehension new information has to be integrated into the current situation model. This is achieved by a processing framework. There are various theories and insights on this process. Most of them only model one or some aspects of Situation Models and language comprehension.

    A list of theories, insights and developments in language comprehension frameworks:

    • an interactive model of comprehension (Kintsch and van Dijk, 1978)
    • early Computatinal Model (Miller, Kintsch, 1980)
    • Constructing-integration Model (Kintsch, 1988)
    • Structure-Building-Framework (Gernsbacher,1990)
    • Capacity Constraint Reader Model (Just, Carpenter, 1992)
    • Constructivist framework (Graesser, Singer, Trabasso, 1994)
    • Event Indexing Model (Zwaan, Langston, Graesser, 1995)
    • Landscape Model (van den Brock, Risden, Fletcher, & Thurlow, 1996)
    • Capacity-constrained construction-integration Model (Goldman, Varma, Coté, 1996)
    • The Immersed Experiencer Framework (Zwaan, 2003)

    In this part of the chapter on Situation Models we will talk about several models; we will start with some of the early stuff and then go to the popular later ones. We will start with the work of Kintsch in the 70s and 80s and then go on to later research which is based on this.

    An interactive Model of Comprehension

    This model was already developed in the 80s; it is the basis for many later models like the CI-Model, or even the Immersed-Experiencer Framework. According to Kintsch and van Dijk (1978), text comprehension proceeds in cycles. In every cycle a few propositions are processed, this number is determined by the capacity of the Short-Term Memory, so 7 plus or minus 2. In every cycle the new propositions are connected to existing ones, they therefore form a connected and hierarchical set.

    Early Computational Model

    This computational model from Miller and Kintsch tried to model earlier theories of comprehension, to make predictions according to these and compare them to behavioural studies and experiments. It consisted of several modules. One was a chunking program: It's task is to read in one word at the moment, identify if it is a proposition and decide whether to integrate it or not. This part of the model was not done computationally. The next part in the input order was the Microstructure Coherence Program (MCP). The MCP sorted the propositions and stored them in the Working Memory Coherence Graph. The task of the Working Memory Coherence Graph was then to decide which propositions should be kept active during the next processing cycle. All propositions are stored in the Long Term Memory Coherence Graph, this decided which propositions should be transferred back in to the Working Memory or it can construct a whole new Working Memory Graph with a different superordinate node. The problem with this Computational Model was that it show a really low performance. But still it led to further research which tried to overcome it's shortcomings.

    Event-Indexing Model

    The Event-Indexing Model was first proposed by Zwaan, Langston and Graesser (1995). It makes claims about how the incoming information in comprehension is processed and how it is represented in the long-term memory.

    According to the Event-Indexing Model all incoming actions events are split into five indexes. The five indexes are the same as the five situational dimensions, though Zwaan & Radvasnky(1998) claim that there are possibly more dimensions. These might be found in future research. One basic point of this model is the processing time of integrating new events into the current model. It is easier to integrate a new incoming event if it shares indexes with a previous event. The more contiguous the new event is, the easier it is integrated into the new Situation Model. This prediction made by Zwaan & Radvanksy (1998) is supported by some prior research (Zwaan, Magliano and Graesser, 1995). The other important point of the Event-Indexing Model is the representation in long-term memory. Zwaan & Radvasnky (1998) predict that this representation is a network of nodes, these nodes encode the events. The nodes are linked with each other through situational links according to the indexes they share. This connection does not only encode if two nodes share indexes but it also encodes the number of shared indexes through its strength. This second point already hints what the Event-Indexing Model lacks. There are several things which it does not include. For example it does not encode the temporal order of the events nor the direction of the causal relationships. The biggest disadvantage of the Event-Indexing Model is clearly that it treats the different dimensions as different entities though they probably interact with each other.

    Zwaan & Radvansky (1998) updated the Event-Indexing Model with some features. This new model splits the processed information into three types. These three types are the situational framework, the situational relations and the situational content. The situational framework grounds the situation in space and time, and its construction is obligatory. If no information is given this framework is probably built up by standard values retrieved from prior world knowledge or some empty variable would be instantiated. he situational relations are based on the five situational dimensions. These are analysed through the Event-Indexing Model. This kind of situational information includes not the basic information, which is given in the situational framework, but the relationships between the different entities or nodes in the network. In contrast to the situational framework the situational relations are not obligatory. If there is no information given or there are no possible inferences between entities, then there is simply no relationship there. There is also an index which addresses importance to the different relations. This importance consists of the necessity of the information to understand the situation, the easiness to inference it when it would not be mentioned and how easy the information can later be remembered. Another distinction this theory makes is the one between functional and non-functional relations (Carlson-Radvansky & Radvansky, 1996; Garrod & Sanford, 1989). Functional relations describe the interaction between different entities whereas non-functional relations are the ones between non-interacting entities. The situational content consists of the entities in the situation like protagonists and objects and their properties. These are only integrated explicitly in the Situation Model, like situational relations, if they are necessary for the understanding of the situation. Nonetheless the central and most important entities and their properties are obligatory again. It is proposed that, in order to keep the processing time low, non-essential information is only represented by something like a pointer so that this information can be retrieved if necessary.

    The Immersed Experiencer Framework

    The Immersed Experiencer Framework (IEF) is based on prior processing framework models (see above for a detailed list) but tries to include several other research findings too. For example it was found that during comprehension brain regions are activated, which are very close or even overlap with brain regions which are active during the perception or the action of the words meaning (Isenberg et al., 2000; Martin & Chao, 2001; Pulvermüller, 1999, 2002). During comprehension there is also a visual representation of shape and orientation of objects (Dahan & Tanenhaus, 2002; Stanfield & Zwaan, 2002; Zwaan et al., 2002; Zwaan & Yaxley, in press a, b). Visual-spatial information primes sentence processing (Boroditsky, 2000). These visual representations can interfer with the comprehension (Fincher-Kiefer, 2001). Findings from (Glenberg, Meyer, & Lindem, 1987; Kaup & Zwaan, in press; Morrow et al., 1987; Horton & Rapp, in press; Trabasso & Suh, 1993; Zwaan et al., 2000) suggest that information which is part of the situation and the text is more active in the reader's mind than information which is not included. The fourth research finding is that people move their eyes and hand during comprehension in a consistent way with the described the situation. (Glenberg & Kaschak, in press; Klatzky et al., 1989; Spivey et al., 2000).

    The main point of the Immersed Experiencer Framework is the idea that words active experiences with their referents. For example "an eagle in the sky" activates a visual experience of a eagle with stretched-out wings while "an eagle in the nest" activates a different visual experience. According to Zwaan (2003) the IEF should be seen as an engine to make predictions about language comprehension. These predictions are then suggested for further research.

    According to the IEF the process of language comprehension consists of three components, these are activation, construal and integration. Each component works at a different level. Activation works at the world level, construal is responsible for the clause level while integration is active at the discourse level. Though the IEF shares many points with earlier models of language comprehension it differs in some main points. For example it suggests that language comprehension involves action and perceptual representations and not amodal propositions (Zwaan, 2003).

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