Date of Degree

2-2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences

Advisor

Klara Marton

Committee Members

Julie Van Dyke

Mira Goral

Valerie Shafer

Subject Categories

Communication Sciences and Disorders | Linguistics | Psychology | Speech and Hearing Science

Keywords

Interference, Memory, Prediction, Expectation, Sentence processing

Abstract

Memory retrieval and probabilistic expectations are recognized factors in sentence comprehension that capture two different critical aspects of processing difficulty: the cost of retrieving and integrating previously processed elements with the new input words and the cost of incorrect predictions about upcoming words or structures in a sentence. Although these two factors have independently received substantial support from the extant literature, how they interact remains poorly understood. This study investigated memory retrieval, more specifically retrieval interference, and lexical-semantic expectations in three reading experiments, pitting these factors against each other to observe how they interact. Overall, results showed that retrieving and integrating a previously processed word is easier for highly predictable sentences (sharp expectation) as compared to weakly predictable sentences, and that precise expectations can completely cancel the damaging effects of memory interference. We hypothesize that expectation provides a head start for retrieval of the target element, thus facilitating recognition and integration processes and reducing the influence of competitor representations.

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