Inferred goals in narratives: evidence from self-paced reading, recall, and eye movements

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2003 Jan;29(1):3-9. doi: 10.1037//0278-7393.29.1.3.


Three convergent methodologies were used to investigate the generation and reinstatement of goals not explicitly stated in a text. Readers read paragraphs adapted from J. S. Huitema, S. Dopkins, C. M. Klin, & J. L. Myers's (1993) study, which conveyed a character's goal early in the text. The goal was either stated explicitly or implied. An event was described later in the text that was either consistent or inconsistent with the goal. Line-by-line reading data, recall for the narratives, and eye-movement data were collected. Evidence is presented that readers infer a character's goal online at the time the information is presented, and the inferred goal functions like an explicitly stated goal in online comprehension processes and in the resulting memory representation.

MeSH terms

  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Reading*
  • Time Factors