Thierry Olive is Senior Researcher at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France (CNRS) and University of Poitiers. He investigates the cognitive processes involved in writing, their dynamics, and their relationship with working memory. He is also interested in how texts are constructed, as well as how writers’ emotions interact with writing.
Writing involves multiple writing processes than can be grouped in four cognitive components: planning processes that operate at a semantic level, formulation processes that produce language, execution/motor processes for tracing the text, and finally evaluation processes for assessing adequation of the text being produced with the writer’s communicative goals. How do writers regulate the numerous writing processes when they compose a text? Which are the constraints that affect these writing strategies?
Before describing these strategies, it is important to underline that writing take places in a cognitive system that has limited processing capacity, which constrains how writers engage the different writing processes (Kellogg, 1996; Kellogg et al., 2013, McCutchen, 1996; Olive, 2021, in press). In that frame, one major constraint for writing processes is the limited capacity of working memory. Therefore, I will begin by presenting the relationship between writing processes and working memory. Writing research has indeed confirmed that most of the writing processes function under the supervision of working memory: all executive and non-executive (verbal and visual spatial) components of working memory are involved when composing a text. Research on executive control suggests that the three core executive functions are also involved (Olive, 2021).
In the second part of my talk, I will describe the dynamics of the writing strategies, with a particular focus on coordination of low- and high-level processes. Writing strategies can be understood at least from a chronological perspective that focus on how writing processes follow each other (e.g., Breetvelt et al., 1994, 1996; Kellogg, 1987, 1988; Levy & Ransdell, 1994; Olive et al., 2001). They can also be described in coordination terms, namely by describing how they are simultaneously (or concurrently) used. Efficient concurrent coordination of low- and high-level writing processes is indeed central to producing good-quality texts (Berninger, 1999). I will therefore describe how high-level processes (planning, formulating and evaluation processes) are coordinated with execution processes (Olive, 2014). I will particularly show that changing demands of execution processes change such coordination: coordination of the writing processes is flexible and can shift from sequential to concurrent activation to adapt to cognitive constraints.