Why do readers answer questions wrongly after reading garden-path sentences?


After reading “While the man hunted the deer ran into the woods”, readers often answer “yes” erroneously to the question “Did the man hunt the deer?”. Good-enough account proposes that lingering misinterpretation is caused by incomplete reanalysis. Such an account predicts more evidence of reanalysis at the disambiguating verb on trials with correct responses than those with incorrect responses. This prediction was tested using a self-paced reading and an ERP experiment. Results showed no difference in the RT and amplitude of P600 at the disambiguation between trials that were answered correctly and those that were answered incorrectly. However, results from a norming experiment showed that plausibility information significantly predicted question accuracy in both experiments, suggesting that responses to questions intended to probe whether garden-path sentences are fully reanalyzed do not always answer that question, but can instead be determined primarily by the plausibility of the events described in that question.

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