When criminals blow up... balloons. Associative and combinatorial information in the generation of on-line predictions in language

AbstractIn the course of sentence processing, comprehenders must identify relationships between sentence elements in accordance with the sentence's syntactic structure. However, low-level associative processes, which may yield interpretations incompatible with global sentence context, have also been suggested to be at play in the early moments of processing. In two experiments, we examine the influence of low-level associative cues alongside combinatorial information in sentences of varying complexity. Verb-driven predictions are used as means to explore the use of these information sources in the earliest moments of processing. In addition, we explore effects of listener age on processing, given past claims that older adults' predictions are more shallow. However, results showed similar patterns across age groups, although we did find clear ways in which associative cues overshadowed combinatorial computations when these cues occurred very close to the verb.

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