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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Karla Lassonde

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Karla Lassonde

Degree, institution, year awarded

Ph.D. University of New Hampshire, 2008

Area(s) of specialization (e.g., areas of interest)

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Reading comprehension and memory
  • Stereotype activation
  • Inference processes in reading


Research Interests

My primary research interests are in reading comprehension and memory. My current research interests focus on: The memory processes involved in the reactivation of prior text as well as general world knowledge. Understanding text requires that the reader connect incoming information with information already stored in memory. There are two major components working in the comprehension process: activation and integration. I have examined the activation component within the memory based framework (e.g., O’Brien & Myers 1999; Gerrig & O’Brien, 2005). Within this framework, whenever the reader encodes information, a signal is sent to all of memory. Information in memory resonates in response to this signal and serves to either facilitate or disrupt comprehension.

Current Research

Stereotype Activation: I am interested in conditions under which knowledge for stereotypes interferes with comprehension. Stereotype activation has often been investigated using explicit measures of stereotypical beliefs. These measures are difficult to interpret because they allow individuals to moderate their responses as a function of social desirability. I am working on several projects using an implicit model of reading comprehension called the Contradiction Paradigm (O’Brien & Albrecht, 1992) to assess the extent to which individuals hold stereotypical beliefs. This paradigm takes advantage of reading comprehension difficulties that arise from the activation of information in memory that occurs outside readers’ awareness. Currently I am examining differences in stereotype activation as a function of whether that stereotype is positive or negative. These projects will be used to describe how activation of stereotypical beliefs affects comprehension and more specifically, the effects of activated stereotypical knowledge on decision making.

Inference Activation: I have investigated two types of inferences that readers often make: instrumental inferences and predictive inferences. Instrumental Inferences are when readers infer a specific inference when presented with a specific tool. Predictive inferences are drawn when readers fill in the gaps to understand “what happens next” in text. Currently I am working on a project examining differences between high and low skilled readers' dependency on knowledge structures in making predictive inferences.

Please email me at for information on research opportunities.

Curriculum Vita (broken link)

Selected publications / Selected presentations:

Lassonde, K. A., Gloth, C. A., & Borchert, K. (in press). Windowless Classrooms or a Virtual  Window World: Does a Creative Classroom Environment Help or Hinder Attention?

Lassonde, K. A., & O'Brien, E. J. (in press). Occupational stereotypes: Activation of male bias in a gender neutral world.

Lassonde, K. A., Smith, E. R., & O’Brien, E. J. (2011). Interweaving memory-based processes into the goal-focusing model of text relevance.  In M. T. McCrudden, J. P. Magliano, & G. Schraw (Eds.), Text Relevance and Learning from Text. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Lassonde, K. A., Scheierl, A. (2010, April). Are stereotypes inherently negative? Assessing activation in memory for positive and negative stereotypes. Presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.

Lassonde, K. A. (2010, October). Assessing gender stereotypes using the contradiction paradigm. Presented at the First Summer School of the Marie Curie Initial Training Network on Language, Gender and Cognition, Bertinoro, Italy.

Lassonde, K. A., (2010, January). Why do “I” have a terrible memory? Tips and tricks for memory improvement. Presented at the Annual Minnesota State University, Professional Development Day, Mankato, MN.

Lassonde, K. A., & O'Brien, E. J. (2009). Contextual specificity in the activation of predictive inferences. Discourse Processes, 46(5), 426-438.

Harmon-Vukic, M., Guéraud, S., Lassonde, K. A., & O'Brien, E. J. (2009). The activation and instantiation of instrumental inferences. Discourse Processes, 46(5), 467-490.

Lassonde, K. A., Rapp, D. N., & O’Brien, E. J. (2009, November). Confirming spontaneity in spontaneous trait inferences. Presented at the 50th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Boston, MA.

Courses Taught:

Course Evaluations

Teaching Philosophy (broken link)