The Effects of Emphasis on Passage Comprehension It may be inferred from reaction time studies that the location of emphasis on nouns and noun phrases facilitates their comprehension (understanding and memory). However, we know of no previous demonstration of improved passage comprehension in normal listeners associated with emphasis placement. The present experiment examined effects of emphasis on ... Research Article
Research Article  |   December 01, 1989
The Effects of Emphasis on Passage Comprehension
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Carolyn Bean
    University of Iowa
  • John W. Folkins
    University of Iowa
  • William E. Cooper
    Department of Psychology University of Iowa
Article Information
Research Articles
Research Article   |   December 01, 1989
The Effects of Emphasis on Passage Comprehension
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1989, Vol. 32, 707-712. doi:10.1044/jshr.3204.707
History: Received February 22, 1988 , Accepted February 2, 1989
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, December 1989, Vol. 32, 707-712. doi:10.1044/jshr.3204.707
History: Received February 22, 1988; Accepted February 2, 1989

It may be inferred from reaction time studies that the location of emphasis on nouns and noun phrases facilitates their comprehension (understanding and memory). However, we know of no previous demonstration of improved passage comprehension in normal listeners associated with emphasis placement. The present experiment examined effects of emphasis on comprehension of 12 passages that were read aloud and tape recorded. Emphasis placement was varied by splicing sentences containing emphasized or nonemphasized noun phrases into passages without altering the wording of the passages. These passages, contrasting in emphasis, were presented to 60 listeners. Comprehension was measured with multiple-choice, recognition questions that required subjects to link ideas across sentences. Comprehension was accurate significantly more often when correct response alternatives had been emphasized (71%), than when incorrect alternatives had been emphasized (56%), or no emphasis occurred in passages (57%). Findings reflect enhanced comprehension of emphasized items in terms of their meaning links to other concepts presented in passages. Results support the pragmatic assumption that the role of emphasis is to delineate constituents important in discourse meaning.

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