The psychologist said quickly, "Dialogue descriptions modulate reading speed!"

Mallory C. Stites, Steven G. Luke, Kiel Christianson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the present study, we investigated whether the semantic content of a dialogue description can affect reading times on an embedded quote, to determine whether the speed at which a character is described as saying a quote influences how quickly it is read. Yao and Scheepers (Cognition, 121:447-453, 2011) previously found that readers were faster to read direct quotes when the preceding context implied that the talker generally spoke quickly, an effect attributed to perceptual simulation of talker speed. For the present study, we manipulated the speed of a physical action performed by the speaker independently from character talking rate to determine whether these sources have separable effects on perceptual simulation of a direct quote. The results showed that readers spent less time reading direct quotes described as being said quickly, as compared to those described as being said slowly (e.g., John walked/bolted into the room and said energetically/nonchalantly, "I finally found my car keys."), an effect that was not present when a nearly identical phrase was presented as an indirect quote (e.g., John . . . said energetically that he finally found his car keys.). The speed of the character's movement did not affect direct-quote reading times. Furthermore, fast adverbs were themselves read significantly faster than slow adverbs, an effect that we attribute to implicit effects on the eye movement program stemming from automatically activated semantic features of the adverbs. Our findings add to the literature on perceptual simulation by showing that these effects can be instantiated with only a single adverb and are strong enough to override the effects of global sentence speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-151
Number of pages15
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Embodied cognition
  • Eye movements
  • Reading
  • Sentence processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Medicine


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