That noun phrase may be beneficial and this may not be: discourse cohesion in reading and writing

Scott A. Crossley, Dani Francuz Rose, Cassondra Danekes, Charles Wesley Rose, Danielle McNamara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


This paper examines the effects of attended and unattended demonstratives on text processing, comprehension, and writing quality in two studies. In the first study, participants (n = 45) read 64 mini-stories in a self-paced reading task and identified the main referent in the clauses. The sentences varied in the type of demonstratives (i.e., this, that, these, and those) contained in the sentences and whether the referent was followed by a demonstrative determiner and noun (i.e., an attended demonstrative) or a demonstrative pronoun (i.e., an unattended demonstrative). In the second study, 173 persuasive essays written by high school students were rated by expert judges on overall writing quality using a standardized rubric. Expert coders manually counted the number and types of demonstratives (attended and unattended demonstratives) in each essay. These counts were used to predict the human scores of essay quality. The findings demonstrate that the use of unattended demonstratives as anaphoric references is disadvantageous to both reading time and referent identification. However, these disadvantages become advantages in terms of essay quality likely because linguistic complexity is a strong indicator of high proficiency writing. From a text processing and comprehension viewpoint, the findings indicate, then, that anaphoric reference is not always beneficial and does not always create a more cohesive text. In contrast, from a writing context, the use of unattended demonstratives leads to a more linguistically complex text, which generally equates to a higher quality text.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-589
Number of pages21
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Attended demonstratives
  • Discourse cohesion
  • Essay quality
  • Text comprehension
  • Text processing
  • Unattended demonstratives

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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