The Influence of Direct and Indirect Speech on Mental Representations


Language can be viewed as a set of cues that subtly modulate the comprehender’s thought processes. For example, the literature suggests that people perceive direct speech as more vivid and perceptually engaging than indirect speech. We sought to address how this alleged vividness is evident in comprehenders’ mental representations in a series of experiments. Our results do not support the idea that, compared to indirect speech, direct speech enhances the accessibility of information from the communicative or referential situation during comprehension. Neither do our results support the idea that the hypothesized more vivid experience of direct speech is caused by switching from the visual to the auditory modality. However, our results do show that direct speech leads to a stronger mental representation of the exact wording of a sentence than does indirect speech. These results show that language has a more subtle influence on memory representations than was previously suggested.

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