What do eye movements in the visual world reflect? A case study from adjectives

AbstractA common dependent measure used in visual-world eye-tracking experiments is the proportion of looks to a visually depicted object in a certain time window after the onset of the critical stimulus. We supplement the eye-tracking data from Leffel, Xiang, and Kennedy (2016) with an offline incremental decision task to measure participants' beliefs about the intended referent at various points in the unfolding sentence, and assess a simple, explicit linking hypothesis that participants' beliefs about the intended referent predict the proportion of looks in the eye-tracking data. The results suggest that the degree to which an object is believed to be the referent is only one factor that affects eye movements in referential tasks. Preliminary free production data we have collected for the scenes suggests that utterance expectations also play a role. We discuss methodological implications of these results for experimental linguistics.

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