Comprehension of Short Stories: Effects of Task Instructions on Literary Interpretation.
PublisherTaylor and Francis
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An important purpose of reading literature is to move beyond the literal text to construct an interpretation of what the text conveys about the human condition and nature of the world (Langer, 2010; Lee, 2007; 2011). In two experiments, college students with no prior training in literary analysis read a short story and responded to one of four task instructions (plot, ambiguous, argument, theme) that were designed to bias either an interpretive or literal stance towards the text. Results indicated that the argument and theme instructions were more likely to lead to essays with more interpretive inferences than plot and ambiguous instructions. Results indicate that stance affected the kinds of inferences that were generated during reading. Implications for expanding current models of text comprehension are discussed.