Investigating Semantic Conflict between General Knowledge and Novel Information in Real-Time Sentence Processing


There is extensive evidence that listeners use general knowledge to predict upcoming sentence endings; however, less is known about how novel information is integrated when there is disagreement between general knowledge and novel information. The present studies use the visual world paradigm to study the semantic competition between new information and general knowledge. Experiment 1 demonstrates that listeners learn to use limited exposure to new information and their general knowledge to anticipate sentence endings that align with the action of the sentence. Experiment 2 demonstrates participants learn to use combinatorial information from stories to elicit anticipatory eye movements to the target over the general knowledge distractor. Evidence from these experiments indicates even in the presence of semantic conflict with general knowledge, listeners rapidly increase the weight of novel information rather than general knowledge.

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