kcab has just provided a terrific example of real-world multiple-choice.
On the original thread, where people were offering their answers to the 1983 SAT question, "The author’s attitude toward children appears to be one of," kcab wrote:
LOL, what the heck, I pick E.Seeing this, my immediate reaction was: Really?
kcab picks E?
I have no idea why I was surprised that kcab picked E. I don't 'know' kcab; we've never emailed off-list, and because I've been somewhat AWOL reading comments for a while now, my conscious perception is that I haven't read enough of kcab's comments to have formed an 'image' of kcab.
Nevertheless, I was surprised. I was surprised, and I felt slightly.... uncertain. I wasn't sure I understood.
My second reaction, which occurred seconds later, was: It's a joke.
"LOL"..."What the heck"...
Tonight I find kcab's followup:
While I'm commenting, I'm feeling defensive about the answer I gave to the earlier post. I saw that post as a game, one that wasn't quite right. Since I could see that everyone else had picked A, I thought I'd pick anything other than A in the interest of answer diversity. Probably just as well for me that I've never had information about other students' answers on tests.I was tickled to see this because I wasn't sure I picked the right answer. Was kcab joking or not? I had made my bet and bubbled my bubble; now I wanted to know.
And there you have it. A satisfying case of multiple choice in real life: a distinctly SAT-like case in which two conflicting choices both strike you as being possible, and only the author (kcab, in this case) knows for sure.
That is what reading is all about.
At least, I think that's what reading is all about. I've spent essentially zero time reading about reading, so I don't know what reading scientists think reading is all about. I may see things differently once I do.
For now, my sense is that texts often present us with more than one possible interpretation -- and that in deciding which interpretation fits best, readers likely use cues I haven't thought about since graduate school. That is to say, readers don't just read the literal meaning of the text; readers also perceive or construct an 'author' -- an implied author -- who is part of the text but not the text, or not the whole text:
"[I]t is a curious fact that we have no terms either for this created 'second self' or our relationship with him. None of our terms for various aspects of the narrator is quite accurate. 'Persona,' 'mask,' and 'narrator' are sometimes used, but they more commonly refer to the speaker in the work who is after all only one of the elements created by the implied author and who may be separated from him by large ironies. 'Narrator' is usually taken to mean the 'I' of the work, but the 'I' is seldom if ever identical with the implied image of the artist."I don't know what made me read kcab correctly (or incorrectly), but it strikes me that it may have to do with this second self.
(Wayne Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1961) - quoted by Richard Nordquis
There are other possibilities as well.