Effects of Prior Mention and Task Goals on Language Processing

AbstractThis paper investigates the processing of linguistic elements whose interpretation depends on retrieving information that was available earlier. Using the visual-world paradigm, we examine the processing of the verb return, which requires that an object has previously moved. We manipulated whether and how the moved object (and the movement itself) was described. We also manipulated whether the instructions were positive (e.g., Return the X), requiring the listener to perform an action, or negative (e.g., Don’t return the X), requiring no action. Results reveal a sensitivity to how information was introduced. Most importantly, with positive instructions, the naming of the object did not have an effect, whereas with negative instructions, naming was important to interpretation. These results indicate that the way information is introduced affects the status of this information when it is retrieved; these findings also lead us to explicitly consider the hypotheses that link language processing and visual attention.

Return to previous page