On Monday morning, the birthday boy was walking to school with another boy. They were passing a bag of potato chips back and forth and the birthday boy was trying to find out what his friend intended to give him for his birthday that afternoon. Without looking, the birthday boy stepped off the curb at an intersection and was immediately knocked down by a car. He fell on his side with his head in the gutter and his legs out in the road. His eyes were closed, but his legs moved back and forth as if he were trying to climb over something. His friend dropped the potato chips and started to cry. The car had gone a hundred feet or so and stopped in the middle of the road. The man in the driver's seat looked back over his shoulder. He waited until the boy got unsteadily to his feet. The boy wobbled a little. He looked dazed, but okay. The driver put the car into gear and drove away. These are the events that take place at the beginning of ‘A Small, Good Thing’, a short story by Raymond Carver (1983). Later, the boy, whose name is Scotty, falls unconscious and is hospitalized. During the hours she visits home to rest, his mother receives a series of strange calls that turn out to be the baker reminding her about the birthday cake she had ordered. Despite these bleak circumstances, it is a work of fiction I thoroughly enjoyed. However, the reason I cite this mildly upsetting passage is that it serves to illuminate some themes that are important throughout the present thesis, in which I investigate text comprehension in children and adults. What mental processes took place while reading that passage, and how did these lead to understanding?

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R.A. Zwaan (Rolf)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Engelen, J.A.A. (2014, September 11). Comprehending Texts and Pictures: Interactions Between Linguistic and Visual Processes in Children and Adults. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/76064