Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Committee Member

David E. Copeland, Chair

Second Committee Member

Mark H. Ashcraft

Third Committee Member

Joel S. Snyder

Graduate Faculty Representative

Alice J. Corkill

Number of Pages



Spatial situation models are mental representations of the relationship between characters and objects in the narrative environment. Functional spatial relationships describe an interaction (or potential interaction) between characters and objects in the narrative environment. Although functional relations tend to produce stronger representations as compared with nonfunctional ones (Radvansky & Copeland, 2000), recent data also suggest that specification of causal information, specifically, survival-based scenarios in which characters are described as in immediate danger, may contribute to the construction and maintenance of spatial situation models (Jahn, 2004). For the current study, this idea was tested by comparing reading times and comprehension for narrative texts that describe characters in either dangerous or neutral scenarios who are interacting with objects in either a functional or nonfunctional manner. Although faster reading times and better recognition scores were observed for the functional critical sentences as compared with nonfunctional critical sentences, dangerous/survival scenarios did not enhance memory, but actually led to poorer memory. These results suggest that readers' ability to comprehend spatial relationships depend more on the functionality of the objects in the narrative environment than the survival status of the character, but that survival does contribute to readers subsequent memorial reconstruction of details described in the text.


Adaptive memory; Reading comprehension – Psychological aspects; Reading comprehension – Research; Reading – Research; Spatial organization


Cognitive Psychology

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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