Publication Date


Document Type


Committee Members

Herbert A. Colle (Committee Member), John Flach (Other), Tamera R. Schneider (Committee Member), Valerie L. Shalin (Advisor), Debra Steele-Johnson (Committee Member), Joseph F. Thomas, Jr. (Other)

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Stories represent an important key to how people remember information. Psychology has characterized stories in terms of grammars, which are lists of components typically found in stories (e.g., setting, protagonist, causal sequence etc.). This has a tendency to limit the definition of a story to grammars and negate the importance of ideas such as content. The present research hopes to expand the definition of a story by introducing another set of literature, namely speech act theory. According to speech act theory, conversations include more information than regular text regarding expectations among the conversational participants and common patterns of conversational exchange. By extension, the presence of conversations in stories may affect how stories are comprehended. Participants read and answered questions pertaining to three stories about car repair, all of which contained the same basic story grammar elements. Two versions of the stories were created that enhanced the story grammar components. A speech act version contained present tense conversations. An additional version included some conversations along with references to information found in a technical manual. After adjusting for reading level, the accuracy of participant responses supported the claim that the speech act version of the story was easier to remember than either the story grammar or the technical versions. Total response times also distinguished the speech act version from the other versions. Separate analyses for response times to true and false questions suggested no difference between true and false response times for the speech act version. The analysis of the true and false questions for story grammar and technical story types showed the expected effect for one version of the experimental questions. Speech act stories therefore elicited a different pattern of responses to the same questions. Cognitive theory must accommodate this result, either as a function of reading strategies or processing pathways.

Page Count


Department or Program

Department of Psychology

Year Degree Awarded