Competition, event comprehension, and dynamic location information in sentence processing


Two experiments in the visual world paradigm investigated competition in sentence processing from dynamic event-related information about location. In Experiment 1, listeners viewed visual arrays with container objects like a bowl, jar, pan, and jug, while they heard sentences like “The boy will pour the sweetcorn from the bowl into the jar, and he will pour the gravy from the pan into the jug. But first/And then, he will taste the sweetcorn.” While “But first” contexts referred to the “source” location of the discourse-final noun (e.g., “sweetcorn”), “And then” contexts referred to its “goal” location. In Experiment 2, listeners always heard “And then” contexts. We found that listeners rapidly fixated context-relevant locations. Crucially, they also fixated locations that were context-irrelevant, but related to the discourse-final noun, suggesting object competition, or consistent with abstract location information implied by “But first” (source) or “And then” (goal), suggesting location competition.

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