The Hemingway’s Six-Word Story Effect: A Psycholinguistic Verification

Keywords: discourse, discursive practice, worldview, Hemingway's story, proverbs, understanding, normative interpretation, deviating interpretation


Purpose. An empirical verification of the Hemingway’s “sad hypothesis” and study of some individual characteristics of a discourse formation in a process of short texts understanding.

Methods and procedure of research. The study was based on the principle of a standardized interview, which was carried out on a random sample (103 respondents) using the questionnaire. The subjects interpreted two proverbs and the short story by Hemingway (“For sale: baby shoes, never worn”). In each case, it was proposed to choose one of the six ready-made interpretations or to create an original one. Proverb explications were classified by experts as “normative” or “deviating”, and interpretations of the story were evaluated into “sad” or “pragmatic” ones. Also, a “normativity index” was calculated for each respondent, reflecting the number of normative renditions of proverbs. The Psychogeometric test was used, and such socio-demographic characteristics were recorded as: gender, age, having children.

Results. This study refutes the “sad hypothesis” regarding Hemingway’s six-word story affect. The prevalence of pragmatic type interpretation over sentimental one is statistically significant. The type of interpretation turned out to be not directly related to any of the considered socio-demographic characteristics. It was found that the sad interpretation of the story reliably corresponds to a high normativity of the proverbs explications. Conversely, respondents with deviating interpretations of proverbs were significantly more likely to interpret Hemingways story in a pragmatic way. Differential psychological features, which were distinguished using the Psychogeometric test, turned out to be an insignificant predictor of the six-word story interpretations.

Conclusions. The analysis of the research results made it possible to argue the thesis that the differences in the formation of individual discourses are directly related to a worldview and indirectly determined by other factors in turn influencing the outlook. The interaction of the worldview with discursive practice that arises in the process of short texts understanding is carried out according to differential scenarios. These scenarios are conditioned by such individual characteristics as discursive conformity and discursive lability, which, in turn, correspond with high and low normativity, respectively. Above features are cognitive in nature. Their ontological localization coincides with the I-language (Chomsky).


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How to Cite
Shymko, V. (2022). The Hemingway’s Six-Word Story Effect: A Psycholinguistic Verification. PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, 32(1), 189-206.