The Goal Bias in Memory and Language: Explaining the Asymmetry

AbstractIn language, speakers are more likely to mention the goals, or endpoints, of motion events than they are to mention sources, or starting points (e.g. Lakusta & Landau, 2005). This phenomenon has been explained in cognitive terms, but may also be affected by discourse-communicative factors: For participants in prior work, sources can be characterized as given, already-known information, while goals are new, relevant information to communicate. We investigate to what extent the goal bias in language (and memory) is affected when the source is or is not in common ground between speaker and hearer, and thus whether it is discourse-given or -new. We find that the goal bias in language is severely diminished when source and goal are discourse-new. We suggest that the goal bias in language can be attributed to discourse-communicative factors in addition to any cognitive goal bias. Discourse factors cannot fully account for the bias in memory.

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