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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2009 Mar;35(2):353-70. doi: 10.1037/a0014733.

Memory-based processing as a mechanism of automaticity in text comprehension.

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Department of Psychology, Kent State University, Kent, OH 44242-0001, USA.


A widespread theoretical assumption is that many processes involved in text comprehension are automatic, with automaticity typically defined in terms of properties (e.g., speed, effort). In contrast, the authors advocate for conceptualization of automaticity in terms of underlying cognitive mechanisms and evaluate one prominent account, the memory-based processing account, which states that one mechanism underlying automatization involves a shift from algorithm-based interpretation of stimuli to retrieval of prior interpretations of those stimuli. During practice, participants repeatedly read short stories containing novel conceptual combinations that were disambiguated with either their dominant or subordinate meaning. During transfer, the combinations were embedded in new sentences that either preserved or changed the disambiguated meaning. The primary dependent variable was reading time in the disambiguating region of target sentences. Supporting the memory-based processing account, speed-ups with practice were larger for repeated versus unrepeated items of the same type, reading times for subordinate versus dominant meanings of the combinations converged on later trials, and practiced meanings were retrieved when items appeared in a transfer context.

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