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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2010 Jul;36(4):979-91. doi: 10.1037/a0019763.

Accessibility of outdated information.

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Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824, USA. edward.o'


In 2 previous studies (O'Brien, Rizzella, Albrecht, & Halleran, 1998; Zwaan & Madden, 2004), researchers have provided conflicting accounts about whether outdated information continues to influence the comprehension of subsequent text. The current set of experiments was designed to explore further the impact of outdated information on comprehension. First, we examined factors that may have contributed to Zwaan and Madden's (2004) finding that outdated information did not influence comprehension. Experiments 1a and 1b demonstrated that when Zwaan and Madden's target sentences were rewritten to move the targeted anaphor away from the end of the sentence, the impact of outdated information emerged with their materials. With a new set of materials, Experiment 2 demonstrated that outdated information continued to disrupt comprehension, even when the updating information created an irreversible change-in-state of a primary object in the story. The results of all 3 experiments are consistent with a passive reactivation process in which outdated information can influence comprehension processes.

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