Gender differences in mental simulation during sentence and word processing

Stephanie I. Wassenburg*, Bjorn B. de Koning, Meinou H. de Vries, A. Marije Boonstra, Menno van der Schoot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Text comprehension requires readers to mentally simulate the described situation by reactivating previously acquired sensory and motor information from (episodic) memory. Drawing upon research demonstrating gender differences, favouring girls, in tasks involving episodic memory retrieval, the present study explores whether gender differences exist in mental simulation in children (Grades 4 to 6). In Experiment 1, 99 children performed a sentence-picture verification task measuring mental simulation at sentence level. In Experiment 2, 97 children completed a lexical decision task in which imageability of words was manipulated to measure mental simulation at word level. Only for girls we found faster reaction times for matching versus mismatching sentence-picture pairs (Experiment 1) and high-imageability versus low-imageability words (Experiment 2). The results suggest that girls construct more coherent and vivid mental simulations than boys and rely more heavily on these representations. The results emphasize the importance of including gender into reading comprehension research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-296
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Research in Reading
Issue number3
Early online date15 Dec 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


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