Comprehending Negated Sentences With Binary States and Locations


Language theorists have argued that processing negated statements (“The eagle is not in the sky,”) differs from affirmative propositions. However, evidence for these claims comes from studies that did not control for the possibility of numerous states (e.g., the eagle is perched on a branch or on the ground). Here, we explore whether constraining this number of possibilities provides more information about processing negation. In Experiment 1, the stimuli described binary states. For example, a coin can be either heads up or tails up; if it is not heads up it is necessarily tails up. In Experiment 2, preceding contexts constrained the number of possible locations of a negated proposition. The results, consistent with earlier evidence for negation’s increased complexity, offer new data suggesting that perceptual simulation of negated proposition may be experimentally detected when the states or locations are sufficiently constrained, using binary states or contextual descriptions.

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