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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (11) : 1247-1262     DOI:
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Updating the Spatial Situation Model: Effects of Cognitive Style

HE Xian-You;YANG Hui;LI Hui-Juan;WEI Yu-Bing;Danielle McNamara

(1 Center for Studies of Psychological Application South China Normal University, Guangzhou 510631, China)
(2 LSI/Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, 85287, USA)

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Abstract  Text comprehension researchers generally agree that successful understanding of narrative text requires building a coherent situation model, and this process is affected by many factors, including text materials, prior knowledge, and individual processing abilities. Past research indicates that working memory is related to information processing but less so with situation model construction. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that visuospatial and verbal working memory subcomponents of working memory influence situation model updating processes. In addition, individuals’ cognitive styles may be correlated with working memory, especially visuospatial memory and the central executive. For example, visually field-independent participants have higher levels of psychological differentiation, cognitive reorganization, visuospatial memory, and verbal working memory than do field-dependent participants. The question addressed in this study is whether cognitive style is related to situation model construction.
Two experiments were conducted to explore this question using the anaphora resolution paradigm and moving window technique. Participants’ field dependency was assessed using the Embedded Figures Test. Among 134 university students, 80 participants were included who were the top and bottom 30% in terms of field dependency (i.e., highly field-independent, and highly field-dependent). They first memorized a building layout until completing a blank layout without errors, at which time the remaining tasks were begun on the computer with the screen of IMB 14 inches. Experiment 1 examined whether spatial situation model updating ability (measured using the spatial distance effect), visuospatial memory, and verbal working memory depended on field dependency. There was a significant three-way interaction of cognitive style, anaphoric position, and movement direction. Simple effects analysis indicated that the spatial distance effect was significant for those who were field-independent only in the low predictability condition, and for those who were field-dependent only in the high predictability condition. A repeated measures ANOVA confirmed that this spatial distance effect remained significant including visuospatial and verbal working memory as covariates. Correlations indicated that greater field-independency was associated with larger visuospatial and verbal working memory. Experiment 2 was designed to facilitate narrative processing of the anaphora sentence for the field-dependent participants (i.e., with situation model updating ability) by adding an object within the path room without mentioning the path room (cf. Dutke, 2006). As such, field-independent participants were able to update their situation model. As predicted, there were main effects of anaphoric position and movement direction but the three-way interaction was not significant. Further analyses confirmed that field-dependent and field-independent participants showed significant spatial distance effects in the high and low predictability conditions.
In summary, this research suggests that the field-independent participants are better able to update their spatial situation model than are field-dependent participants. The results are discussed in terms of psychological differentiation, cognitive coding strategy, and cognitive reorganization.
Keywords text comprehension      cognitive style      spatial situation model      anaphora resolution     
Corresponding Authors: HE Xian-You;YANG Hui   
Issue Date: 30 November 2011
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HE Xian-You
YANG Hui
LI Hui-Juan
WEI Yu-Bing
Danielle McNamara
Cite this article:   
HE Xian-You,YANG Hui,LI Hui-Juan, et al. Updating the Spatial Situation Model: Effects of Cognitive Style[J]. , 2011, 43(11): 1247-1262.
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http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/      OR     http://journal.psych.ac.cn/xlxb/EN/Y2011/V43/I11/1247
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