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Abstract

An experiment on the comprehension of, and memory for, texts of varying degrees of plausibility is reported. Previous studies on conservatives' art preferences (concerning poetry and music) showed that they favoured works of art that were conventional and relatively simple; this was explained in terms of conservatives' generalised intolerance of ambiguity. The present study sought to extend the previous research by examining conservatives'and non-conservatives' memory of and preferences for texts of varying plausibility. When plausibility is disrupted, texts recount strange, unexpected and ambiguous sequences of actions and events. It was found that conservative subjects' memory for texts of varying plausibility was similar to that of non-conservatives when overall recall is considered, but there was a greater tendency for conservatives to import inferences (novel propositions which had not been present in the original text) into their recall protocols and to distort their recall (although the latter effect is only marginally significant). They also showed much stronger preferences for plausible over implausible texts compared to non-conservatives. These results accord well with the previous findings on art preferences, and were explained in terms of the conservatives seeking to avoid or minimise ambiguity.