What Makes Folk Tales Unique: Content Familiarity, Causal Structure, Scripts, or Superstructures?

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Abstract

Requiring readers to reorder randomly ordered sentences into a coherent text significantly enhances recall relative to that in a read-only control condition for non-folk-tale texts but not for folk tales (Einstein, McDaniel, Owen, & Coté, 1990). Experiments 1–3 showed that embedding components of folk tales (e.g., causal structure, conventional scripts, content related to background knowledge) in non-folk-tale texts did not render sentence unscrambling ineffective for increasing recall. In Experiments 4a–4c, a folk tale was presented either as a fairy tale or as part of a newspaper article. Significant sentence unscrambling effects (in free recall) were not obtained in either presentation format, which implies that a story superstructure (a story grammar) does not contribute to the absence of the sentence unscrambling effect. It is suggested that understanding why the sentence unscrambling effect is absent for folk tales may require considering the functional role that narrative plays in socioculturally situated cognition.

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