Modelling Memory for Models
A “model” of a text is a mapping of its constants, predicates and relations onto a set of individuals. Stenning (1975, 1978) observed that powerful conventions for the interpretation of expository text ensure that texts determine models.
Two contrasting theoretical interpretations of these and other observations are current in the literature. Johnson-Laird and his associates (eg., Johnson-Laird & Steedman 1978, Johnson-Laird 1983) interpret models as a medium of mental representation. Alternatively, models may be treated as abstract objects which are important because they specify what is represented. For this latter interpretation, the question how representation is achieved is the outstanding psychological problem for theories of text comprehension and memory.
A central problem in the representation of models is the representation of individuals and their properties. This paper gives a brief description of the results of a research program aimed directly at the question of how models are represented during and after text comprehension. Analysis of memory performance (Stenning, Shepherd & Levy 1988) reveals that the underlying representation of individuals is distributed through a set of features representing existential facts about the whole ensemble of individuals described. Stenning & Levy (1988) show that a PDP simulation of the representations revealed in these analyses explains human error patterns.
KeywordsMental Model Human Reasoning Text Comprehension Natural Deduction Expository Text
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