People perceive the same situation described in direct speech (e.g., John said, “I like the food at this restaurant”) as more vivid and perceptually engaging than described in indirect speech (e.g., John said that he likes the food at the restaurant). So, if direct speech enhances the perception of vividness relative to indirect speech, what are the effects of using indirect speech? In four experiments, we examined whether the use of direct and indirect speech influences the comprehender’s memory for the identity of the speaker. Participants read a direct or an indirect speech version of a story and then addressed statements to one of the four protagonists of the story in a memory task. We found better source memory at the level of protagonist gender after indirect than direct speech (Exp. 1–3). When the story was rewritten to make the protagonists more distinctive, we also found an effect of speech type on source memory at the level of the individual, with better memory after indirect than direct speech (Exp. 3–4). Memory for the content of the story, however, was not influenced by speech type (Exp. 4). While previous research showed that direct speech may enhance memory for how something was said, we conclude that indirect speech enhances memory for who said what.

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Collabra: Psychology
Department of Psychology

Eerland, A., & Zwaan, R. (2018). The influence of direct and indirect speech on source memory. Collabra: Psychology, 4(1). doi:10.1525/collabra.123