Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Psychology



First Committee Member

David E. Copeland

Second Committee Member

Mark H. Ashcraft

Third Committee Member

Colleen M. Parks

Fourth Committee Member

CarolAnne M. Kardash

Fifth Committee Member

Kathryn Hausbeck Korgan

Number of Pages



This thesis investigated whether readers would integrate physical descriptions of characters into one coherent mental representation or if they would keep mental representations separate. The integration of multiple concepts has been examined in the context of the fan effect, which is the finding that an increase in the number of learned associations for a concept can result in an increase in retrieval times and error rates (Anderson, 1974). However, there is typically not a fan effect when people are able to organize the related information into a single integrated situation model (Radvansky & Zacks, 1991). Previous studies investigating the fan effect have focused on objects and locations, but few studies have examined how people organize physical traits about individuals. Thus, the current experiments examined whether situational (i.e., temporary, or based on the situation) and permanent physical attributes from multiple sentences are stored separately or can be integrated, and this was examined in the context of predictions made by situation model theory (Radvansky & Zacks, 1991; Radvansky, Spieler, & Zacks, 1993) and ACT-R theory (Anderson & Reder, 1999). Consistent with situation model theory, all experiments showed evidence of a differential fan effect, however, in some cases, integration did not occur in patterns that were predicted by situation model theory. Other explanations for the pattern of results are discussed.


Context effects (Psychology); Fan effect; Mental representation; Personality and situation



File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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