An Evaluation of Alternative Functional Models of Narrative Schemata

This experiment is based on the following paper:

Yekovitch, F. R., & Thornedyke, P. W. (1981). An evaluation of alternative functional models of narrative schemata. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 20, 454-469. Reprinted by permission of Academic Press.


Schemas, or schemata, refer to cognitive structures which organize specific details about the general properties of an object or event. For example, the schema for coffee would include concepts about its, color, taste, and so on but would leave out information about a specific cup of coffee purchased this morning. Schemas organize the abstract information we know about the world in ways which allow it to be efficiently utilized. In this study Yekovich and Thorndyke study how schemas shape our comprehension while reading.

Schemas constrain the interpretation and organization of situations and events in a reading passage. To model these constraints, researchers construct hierarchical tree diagrams which describe the schematic grammar of the story. High-level story constituents (e.g. theme, resolution) are high in this hierarchy, while plot details are low. Previous studies have shown that people find it easier to remember items high in the hierarchy.

Several different models have been proposed to explain such results. In this experiment Yekovich and Thorndyke examine two differing views on how schemas are utilized during text comprehension


The full text describing the experiment is available here.

The experiments are available below. (66.2 KB) (82.2 KB)