People spend much of their everyday lives immersed in narratives, such as watching TV shows or sharing a story with a friend. Not only do narratives influence the way people feel (Mar, Oatley, Djikic & Mullin, 2010), they may also influence people’s self-concept (Sestir & Green, 2010), views of the world (Appel, 2008) and well-being (Fivush, Marin, McWilliams & Bohanek, 2009). Every culture tells stories and is in turn affected by the stories they tell. Given the pervasiveness of narratives, it is important to understand how people comprehend and experience narratives. I also believe that studying how people comprehend narratives can also illuminate everyday behaviors, such as how people process the goals and actions of others. My research focuses on how people construct mental representations of narrative worlds, how people's beliefs are affected by narratives, and different factors that affect whether people enjoy narratives.
BA, Skidmore College, 2006; MA, Stony Brook University, 2009; PhD, Stony Brook University, 2012
Cognitive psychology, psycholinguistics, reading and discourse comprehension, narratives, source monitoring
Classes at Colgate University:
- Core 140 SP: Language and Cognition
- Psyc 250: Human Cognition
- Psyc 300: The Narrative Mind
- Psych 200: Research Methods (spring 2014)
Soaring over Metropolis: How readers comprehend realistic and fantastic stories
Like the real world, fictional worlds are governed by rules that determine how the story unfolds. For my dissertation, I explored how readers use their real-world knowledge and information from a text to construct a mental representation of the rules governing fictional worlds. Some previous research suggests that readers always experience difficulty comprehending information that is inconsistent with their real-world knowledge, even when it fits within a story world (Sanford and Ferguson, 2008). However, in my dissertation, I have found that readers find it harder to comprehend events that are inconsistent with a fictional world, even when they are consistent with the real world. For example, I found that readers experience difficulty reading comprehending a story in which Superman is killed by bullets. In contrast, readers found it easy to understand bullets bouncing off Superman’s chest, even though this would be implausible in the real world. I have also found that readers experienced difficulty comprehending a story in which bullets bounced off the chest of an ordinary bank teller in Metropolis. I have found that, under certain circumstances, readers may generalize their knowledge about familiar character (e.g., Superman's invulnerability to bullets) to an unfamiliar character (e.g., an alien from Krypton). Taken together, these stories shed light on how readers develop beliefs about what is plausible and implausible in a particular fictional world using their prior knowledge.