In this study, we applied the text-change paradigm to investigate whether and how discourse hierarchy affected the memory representation of a discourse. Three kinds of three-sentence discourses were constructed. In the hierarchy-high condition and the hierarchy-low condition, the three sentences of the discourses were hierarchically organized and the last sentence of each discourse was located at the high level and the low level of the discourse hierarchy, respectively. In the linear condition, the three sentences of the discourses were linearly organized. Critical words were always located at the last sentence of the discourses. These discourses were successively presented twice and the critical words were changed to semantically related words in the second presentation. The results showed that during the early processing stage, the critical words were read for longer times when they were changed in the hierarchy-high and the linear conditions, but not in the hierarchy-low condition. During the late processing stage, the changed-critical words were again found to induce longer reading times only when they were in the hierarchy-high condition. These results suggest that words in a discourse have better memory representation when they are located at the higher rather than at the lower level of the discourse hierarchy. Global discourse hierarchy is established as an important factor in constructing the mental representation of a discourse.
Wu, Y., Yang, X., & Yang, Y. (2016). Eye movement evidence for hierarchy effects on memory representation of discourses. PLoS ONE, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147313