Associative Recognition for Word Pairs in Temporarily Ambiguous Sentences: Behavioral and Electrophysiological Evidence
Kathryn Bousquet1, Axel Mecklinger2, Debra Long1, Tamara Swaab1; 1University of California, Davis, 2Saarland University, Saarbrücken
Previous research suggests sentence processing is affected by syntactic complexity and verb bias – the frequency with which a verb appears in a particular syntactic structure. In general, complex sentential complement (SC) structures are more difficult to process than direct object (DO) structures; however, SC structures become easier to process when the verb is SC-biased (Wilson & Garnsey, 2009). Researchers have studied how syntactic complexity and verb bias affect sentence processing as it unfolds, but it is unclear whether both factors affect the formation of sentence representations in memory. In the current experiment, participants listened to temporarily ambiguous DO/SC sentences where the verb bias and structure were either consistent or inconsistent (e.g. the goalie confirmed/confessed the defeat…with heartbreak/was heartbreaking). Participants then completed an associative recognition task: intact pairs contained words spoken in the same sentence, rearranged pairs contained words from different sentences, and new pairs were not spoken at all. Behaviorally, item memory was significantly greater than associative memory, but neither were modulated by verb bias or syntactic complexity. Electrophysiological data revealed a significant old/new parietal effect with old pairs eliciting more positive waveforms than new pairs. Intact and rearranged pairs did not differ significantly. At early time windows, waveforms did not differ as a function of syntactic complexity, but a late parietal positivity was observed for word pairs from sentences with consistent bias and structure. The results indicate participants formed detailed sentence representations regardless of verb bias or syntactic complexity, but post-retrieval processing may be influenced by verb bias.
Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic