The representation of sentences in memory

Ernest T. Goetz, Richard C. Anderson, Diane L. Schallert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Associative theory characterizes the memorial representation of a sentence as a collection of independently linked concepts. In contrast, Gestalt theory says that the representation underlying each proposition expressed in a sentence is an integral unit. An analysis shows that the results of previous research either have been equivocal or have supported the Gestalt position. Three new studies are reported that show that, when scored for gist, the propositions underlying simple three-word sentences are recalled completely or not at all. A final experiment indicates that one-proposition sentences containing four content words are more likely to be recalled as a whole than three-proposition sentences of the same length, and that fragmentary recall of the three-proposition sentences usually preserves the unity of constituent propositions. These results strongly support the Gestalt position over any associative model that has been proposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1981

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'The representation of sentences in memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this