Art Graesser
Is Siegfried Schmidt's Constructivism Alive and Well Today?

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A second disagreement addresses the role of the stimulus in constructivist theories. As I have reconstructed Siegfried's position over the years, the stimulus plays a minor or negligible role in the comprehension and appreciation of literature. It is what the mind constructs that counts and the stimulus does not dictate what the mind does. In contrast, my theoretical position is that the stimulus imposes substantial constraints on the course of comprehension. There is a constraint satisfaction mechanism that incorporates the constraints of the stimulus with the mechanisms of the mind. It is quite possible, however, that I have misunderstood Schmidt and his intentions on this matter of the stimulus, and have thereby made a fundamental attribution error. If so, then I suppose I have indirectly proven that Schmidt's position is correct (i.e., the position that I had "incorrectly" attributed to Schmidt). Perhaps Schmidt could show me an excerpt to prove me wrong and clarify any misunderstanding.

In closing, I want to express that Siegfried Schmidt has had a tremendous impact on my own career. What he started became part of my destiny. In addition to attending and presenting papers at all of the IGEL meetings, I served as the president of IGEL 1989-1992 and part of the governing board for several years. As editor of the journal Discourse Processes (1996-present), I have embraced constructivism and empirical studies of literature as one of the important developments in the field of discourse processing. So the ideas of Siegfried Schmidt have indeed managed to spread from Europe to North America. Siegfried's constructivism is alive and well today.


Graesser, A.C., Singer, M., & Trabasso, T. (1994). Constructing inferences during narrative text comprehension. Psychological Review, 101, 371-395.

Kintsch, W. (1998). Comprehension: A paradigm for cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schmidt, S.J. (1982). Foundations for the empirical study of literature: The components of a basic theory. Hamburg, Germany: Helmut Buske Verlag.

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