When You and I Share Perspectives

  • Brunyé T
  • Ditman T
  • Mahoney C
 et al. 
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Abstract

Readers mentally simulate the objects and events described in narratives. One common assumption is that readers mentally embody an actor’s perspective; alternatively, readers might mentally simulate events from an external ‘‘onlooker’’ perspective. Two experiments examined the role of pronouns in modulating a reader’s adopted perspective when comprehending simple event sentences. Experiment 1 demonstrated that readers em- body an actor’s perspective when the pronoun you or I is used, but take an external perspective when he is used. Experiment 2, however, found that a short discourse con- text preceding the event sentence led readers to adopt an external perspective with the pronoun I. These experi- ments demonstrate that pronoun variation and discourse context mediate the degree of embodiment experienced during narrative comprehension: In all cases, readers mentally simulate objects and events, but they embody an actor’s perspective only when directly addressed as the subject of a sentence.

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Authors

  • Tad T. Brunyé

  • Tali Ditman

  • Caroline R Mahoney

  • Jason S Augustyn

  • Holly a Taylor

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