This paper investigated the impact of causality on reading time by examining the contributions of forward antecedent and backward consequence connections. Undergraduate students read four narrative texts, sentence by sentence. Reading times for each sentence were regressed onto the number of antecedents connecting forward to a sentence and backward to prior sentences. Overall, forward antecedents and backward consequences explained unique variance in reading times, with increases in antecedents and consequences predicting decreases in reading time. However, causal consequences did not contribute unique variance to participants with higher literature knowledge. Further, the presence of forward antecedents significantly attenuated reading time differences in reading skill, and lower knowledge participants read sentences significantly faster than higher knowledge participants when forward antecedents were present. These results suggest that readers track both forward causal antecedents and backward causal consequences in online comprehension.
Briner, S.W., Kurby, C.A., & McNamara, D.S. (2007). Individual differences and the impact of forward and backward causal relations on the online processing of narratives. In D.S. McNamara & G. Trafton (Eds.), Proceedings of the 29th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Nashville, TN: Cognitive Science Society.