Copyright © 2019 DReaM Lab


Parallel effects of retrieval ease on attributions about the past and the future

Gregg, J., Upadhyay, S. S. N., Kuntzelman, K., Sacchi, E., & Westerman, D. L. (2019). Parallel Effects of Task Difficulty on Attributions about the Past and the Future. Acta Psychologica, 193, 96-104. DOI:

The present study explored the role of task difficulty in judgments about the past and the future. Participants recalled events from childhood and imagined future events. The difficulty of the task was manipulated by asking participants to generate either four or twelve events. Participants then rated how well they could generally remember events from their childhood or how well planned their futures were. Consistent with past research (e.g., Winkielman, Schwarz, & Belli, 1998), participants in the difficult recall group rated their childhood memories as less complete than participants in the easy recall group. A parallel effect was found in participants' judgments of their futures. Participants who were asked to imagine twelve future events rated their future plans as less complete than those who imagined four events. Moreover, there was a negative correlation between the rated difficulty of the task and the degree to which participants found their memories and plans to be complete. We also examined the valence of the generated events. These results showed a strong positivity bias for both types of judgments, and the bias was particularly strong when thinking of future events. The results suggest that similar attributional processes mediate beliefs about the past and the future.

Is “Few” Always Less than Expected?: The Influence of Story Context on Readers’ Interpretation of Natural Language Quantifiers

Upadhyay, S. S. N., Houghton, K. J., & Klin, C. M. (2018). Is “few” always less than expected?: The influence of story context on readers’ interpretation of natural language quantifiers. Discourse Processes, DOI: 10.1080/0163853X.2018.1557006

After reading, few of the juniors were accepted, focus is on the students not accepted, the complement set. According to the Presupposition Denial Account, negative quantifiers, such as few, convey a denial of expectation, or shortfall, which leads to complement set focus. In six experiments, we explored the role of the passage context on the comprehension of negative quantifiers. We examined reading times on an anaphoric reference (the students…) to negatively quantified statements. When the story context introduced an expectation for a small quantity (most years, a lot of weak students apply), few was consistent with readers’ expectations, and did not indicate that there was shortfall. Despite this, after the negative quantifier, focus on the complement set was not reduced. In contrast, when the story context introduced the expectation for a small quantity, there was increased focus on the reference set (the students accepted). The polarity of natural language quantifiers interacts with the discourse context to influence the comprehension of negative quantifiers.

Punctuation in Text Messages May Convey Abruptness. Period.

Houghton, K. J., Upadhyay, S. S. N., & Klin, C. M. (2018). Punctuation in text messages may convey abruptness. Period. Computers in Human Behavior, 80, 112-121.

In contrast with face-to-face conversations, text messages lack extra-linguistic cues such as tone of voice and gestures. We explore the hypothesis that textisms, such as irregular punctuation, are used to fill this role. We extend the work of Gunraj, Drumm-Hewitt, Dashow, Upadhyay, and Klin (2016) who found that the inclusion of a period after a positive one-word response (e.g., yeah.) led readers to perceive the response as less sincere. In Experiment 1, we used longer text exchanges that were more naturalistic and replicated this finding. In Experiments 2 and 3, negative responses (e.g., nope) and ambiguous responses (e.g., maybe) were also perceived as more negative, or less enthusiastic, with a period. The period can serve a rhetorical, rather than a grammatical, function in text messages. More generally, textisms such as punctuation can convey the types of social and pragmatic information that are communicated with extra-linguistic cues in face-to-face conversations.

Simulating a Story Character’s Thoughts: Evidence from the directed-forgetting task.

Gunraj, D. N., Upadhyay, S. S. N., Houghton, K. J., Westerman, D. L., & Klin, C. M. (2017). Simulating a story character’s thoughts: Evidence from the directed-forgetting task. Journal of Memory and Language, 96, 1-8.

Readers’ memory representations have been shown to include the sensory details of characters’ movement, dialogue, and navigation through space and time (e.g., Glenberg & Kaschak, 2002; Gunraj, Drumm-Hewitt, & Klin, 2014; Levine & Klin, 2001; Zwaan, 1996). We ask whether readers also encode the mental experiences of story characters, such as their thoughts and goals. To examine this question, we used a variation of the list-method directed forgetting paradigm (Bjork, 1970), with two word-lists embedded within a narrative. In contrast with the traditional directed forgetting paradigm, it was the story character, rather than the participant, who needed to remember List 1 or forget List 1. If readers take the character’s perspective, the character’s intention to remember or forget List 1 should influence the reader’s intention to remember or forget List 1. This, in turn, should produce the typical pattern of effects for directed forgetting: decreased recall for List 1 (costs) and increased recall for List 2 (benefits) in the Forget condition relative to the Remember condition. The List 2 benefits were found across experiments, even without explicit instructions to forget or remember List 1. However, the List 1 costs were not reliable. Results are discussed within Sahakyan and Delaney’s (2003, 2005) two-factor account of directed-forgetting, in which the List 1 and List 2 effects are dissociable. More generally, we conclude that when readers are actively engaged in a story, they may infer and simulate the mental activity of the characters, remembering and forgetting what the story characters remember and forget.

Texting Insincerely: The Role of the Period in Text Messaging.

Gunraj, D. N., Drumm-Hewitt, A. M., Dashow, E. M., Upadhyay, S. S. N., & Klin, C. M. (2016). Texting insincerely: The role of the period in text messaging. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 1067-1075.

Text messaging is one of the most frequently used computer-mediated communication (CMC) methods. The rapid pace of texting mimics face-to-face communication, leading to the question of whether the critical non-verbal aspects of conversation, such as tone, are expressed in CMC. Much of the research in this domain has involved large corpus analyses, focusing on the contents of texts, but not how receivers comprehend texts. We ask whether punctuation - specifically, the period - may serve as a cue for pragmatic and social information. Participants read short exchanges in which the response either did or did not include a sentence-final period. When the exchanges appeared as text messages, the responses that ended with a period were rated as less sincere than those that did not end with a period. No such difference was found for handwritten notes. We conclude that punctuation is one cue used by senders, and understood by receivers, to convey pragmatic and social information.

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