Poster C74, Sunday, March 26, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Readers select perspective in comprehension independent of pronoun: evidence from fMRI during narrative comprehension
Franziska Hartung1,2, Peter Hagoort2,3, Roel M. Willems3,4; 1University of Pennsylvania, 2Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, 3Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Bahavior, 4Center for Language Studies, Radboud University
Perspective is a crucial feature for communicating about events. Yet it is unclear how linguistically encoded perspective relates to cognitive perspective taking. There is evidence that personal pronouns referring to agents can influence perspective taking. However, most evidence is based on isolated sentences, and it has been suggested that these effects are driven by task strategy effects rather than being true correlates of natural comprehension. Here, we tested the effect of perspective taking with personal pronouns referring to the protagonists of short literary stories. Participants (N=52) listened to two literary narratives, one with 1st (I) and one with 3rd (she) person pronouns referring to the protagonist, while brain activity was measured with fMRI. After each story, participants responded to questionnaires regarding their engagement with the story and their subjective experience of perspective taking. When comparing action events with 1st and 3rd person pronouns, we found no evidence for a neural dissociation depending on the pronoun. A split sample approach based on the self-reported experience of perspective taking, revealed three comprehension preferences. One group showed a strong preference for 1st person perspective, another showed a strong preference for 3rd person perspective, and a third group experienced 1st and 3rd person perspective taking simultaneously. Comparing brain activations of the groups revealed that the different preferences were associated with different neural activations when readers engaged with the narratives. Our results suggest that comprehension is perspective dependent: not on the perspective suggested by the text, but on the reader’s (situational) preference.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Semantic