How Reading Goals and Rhetorical Signals Influence Recipients’ Recognition of Intertextual Conflicts

Abstract

Becoming aware of conflicting information is an integral part of comprehending multiple documents on a scientific issue. We examined whether memory for conflicts and its application in an essay task could be enhanced by a combination of reading goals and text signals. Two high-coherence-orienting reading goals (reading to write a summary or an argumentation) were contrasted with a low coherence-orienting goal (composing a list of key words). Moreover, for half of the participants texts contained rhetorical connectors signaling the existence of conflicts, whereas the other half did not. A total of 184 undergraduates read multiple documents on a controversial medical issue. As expected, reading with high-coherence goals facilitated conflict recognition more than a low-coherence goal. The facilitative effect of signaling was particularly pronounced in the summary group. Moreover, participants in the signaling-condition and in the high-coherence goal conditions wrote the most integrated essays subsequent to reading.


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