Initial Mention as a Cue to the Main Idea and the Main Item of a Technical Passage.
ARIZONA UNIV TUCSON DEPT OF PSYCHOLOGY
Pagination or Media Count:
Information near the beginning of a passage has often been reported to be recalled better, with the explanation being that the most important information in a passage is called better, and this information usually appears early in a passage. But this usual position for important information suggests that there is a linguistic convention that such information normally should appear in an initial position, meaning that the reader expects to find it there. If so, initially appearing information may tend to be viewed as important simply as a result of its position. Whether initial mention could play this role as a signal to the important, or thematic, content of a passage was determined with five experiments in which readers reported what they though was the main idea or the main item of technical passages. The first two experiments show that in normal or natural passages, statements of the main idea tend to be based on initially mentioned sentences. The third experiment unconfounded content and position by using passages in which the main idea was expressed by a sentence which appeared either first in the passage, or embedded in the middle of the passage. Statements of the main idea resembled the intended theme sentence to a greater extent if this sentence appeared first than if it was embedded. The fourth and fifth experiments showed that statements of the main item tended to name the major reference that appeared first in the passage.