Recognition memory z-transformed Receiver Operating Characteristic (zROC) functions have a slope less than 1. One way to accommodate this finding is to assume that memory evidence is more variable for studied (old) items than non-studied (new) items. This assumption has been implemented in signal detection models, but this approach cannot accommodate the time course of decision making. We tested the unequal-variance assumption by fitting the diffusion model to accuracy and response time (RT) distributions from nine old/new recognition data sets comprising previously-published data from 376 participants. The η parameter in the diffusion model measures between-trial variability in evidence based on accuracy and the RT distributions for correct and error responses. In fits to nine data sets, η estimates were higher for targets than lures in all cases, and fitting results rejected an equal-variance version of the model in favor of an unequal-variance version. Parameter recovery simulations showed that the variability differences were not produced by biased estimation of the η parameter. Estimates of the other model parameters were largely consistent between the equal- and unequal-variance versions of the model. Our results provide independent support for the unequal-variance assumption without using zROC data.
recognition memory; unequal variance; diffusion model
We investigate the following finding concerning the order in which participants are mentioned in sentences: In a probe recognition task, probe words are responded to considerably more rapidly when they are the names of the first- as opposed to the second-mentioned participants. Seven experiments demonstrated that this advantage is not attributable to the tendency in English for first-mentioned participants to be semantic agents; neither is it due to the fact that in many of our experiments, the first-mentioned participants were also the initial words of their stimulus sentences. Furthermore, the advantage is not attenuated when the first- and second-mentioned participants share syntactic subjecthood, or even when the first-mentioned participants are not the syntactic subjects. In sum, the effect does not appear to be attributable to linguistic factors. We suggest instead that it is the result of cognitive processes: Building a coherent mental representation requires first laying a foundation and then mapping subsequent information onto the developing representation. First-mentioned participants are more accessible because they form the foundations for their sentence. Level representations and because it is through them that subsequent information gets mapped onto the developing representations.
We investigated two seemingly contradictory phenomena: the Advantage of the First-Mentioned Participant (participants mentioned first in a sentence are more accessible than participants mentioned second) and the Advantage of the Most Recent Clause (concepts mentioned in the most recent clause are more accessible than concepts mentioned in an earlier clause). We resolved this contradiction by measuring how quickly comprehenders accessed participants mentioned in the first versus second clauses of two-clause sentences. Our data supported the following hypotheses: Comprehenders represent each clause of a two-clause sentence in its own mental substructure. Comprehenders have greatest access to information in the substructure that they are currently developing; that is, they have greatest access to the most recent clause. However, at some point, the first clause becomes more accessible because the substructure representing the first clause of a two-clause sentence serves as a foundation for the whole sentence-level representation.
Vowel nuclei of syllables appear to provide a relatively stable (although not stationary) frame of reference for judging consonant events. We offer evidence that reliable consonant identification demands prior or simultaneous evaluation of this “vocalic frame.” Listeners were presented a list of /bVs/, /dVs/, and /gVs/ syllables and were instructed to press a response key immediately upon recognizing a particular initial consonant target. Three groups of subjects monitored for /b/, /d/, and /g/, respectively. The test syllables contained 10 English vowels varying substantially in intrinsic duration. Response times to the initial consonants correlated positively with the duration of the following vowels, even when the effect of consonant-vowel formant transition duration was partialed out. The results suggest that consonant recognition is vowel dependent and, specifically, that a certain amount or proportion of the vowel formant trajectory must be evaluated before consonants can be reliably identified.
Homesigns are communication systems created by deaf individuals without access to conventional linguistic input. To investigate how homesign gestures for number function in short-term memory compared to homesign gestures for objects, actions, or attributes, we conducted memory span tasks with adult homesigners in Nicaragua, and with comparison groups of unschooled hearing Spanish speakers and deaf Nicaraguan Sign Language signers. There was no difference between groups in recall of gestures or words for objects, actions or attributes; homesign gestures therefore can function as word units in short-term memory. However, homesigners showed poorer recall of numbers than the other groups. Unlike the other groups, increasing the numerical value of the to-be-remembered quantities negatively affected recall in homesigners, but not controls. When developed without linguistic input, gestures for number do not seem to function as summaries of the cardinal values of the sets (four), but rather as indexes of items within a set (one-one-one-one).
numerical cognition; digit span; short-term memory; Nicaraguan Sign Language; homesign; lexical representation; gesture
While orthographic and phonological preview benefits in reading are uncontroversial (see Schotter, Angele, & Rayner, 2012 for a review), researchers have debated the existence of semantic preview benefit with positive evidence in Chinese and German, but no support in English. Two experiments, using the gazecontingent boundary paradigm (Rayner, 1975), show that semantic preview benefit can be observed in English when the preview and target are synonyms (share the same or highly similar meaning, e.g., curlers-rollers). However, no semantic preview benefit was observed for semantic associates (e.g., curlers-styling). These different preview conditions represent different degrees to which the meaning of the sentence changes when the preview is replaced by the target. When this continuous variable (determined by a norming procedure) was used as the predictor in the analyses, there was a significant relationship between it and all reading time measures, suggesting that similarity in meaning between what is accessed parafoveally and what is processed foveally may be an important influence on the presence of semantic preview benefit. Why synonyms provide semantic preview benefit in reading English is discussed in relation to (1) previous failures to find semantic preview benefit in English and (2) the fact that semantic preview benefit is observed in other languages even for non-synonymous words. Semantic preview benefit is argued to depend on several factors—attentional resources, depth of orthography, and degree of similarity between preview and target.
Children’s difficulty understanding passives in English has been attributed to the syntactic complexity, overall frequency, cue reliability, and/or incremental processing of this construction. To understand the role of these factors, we used the visual-world paradigm to examine comprehension in Mandarin Chinese where passives are infrequent but signaled by a highly valid marker (BEI). Eye-movements during sentences indicated that these markers triggered incremental role assignments in adults and 5-year-olds. Actions after sentences indicated that passives were often misinterpreted as actives when markers appeared after the referential noun (“Seal BEI it eat” → The seal is eaten by it). However, they were more likely to be interpreted correctly when markers appeared before (“It BEI seal eat” → It is eaten by the seal). The actions and the eye-movements suggest that for both adults and children, interpretations of passive are easier when they do not require revision of an earlier role assignment.
Language development; Passives; Mandarin; Eye-tracking; Role assignment
Although syntactic complexity has been investigated across dozens of studies, the available data still greatly underdetermine relevant theories of processing difficulty. Memory-based and expectation-based theories make opposite predictions regarding fine-grained time course of processing difficulty in syntactically constrained contexts, and each class of theory receives support from results on some constructions in some languages. Here we report four self-paced reading experiments on the online comprehension of Russian relative clauses together with related corpus studies, taking advantage of Russian’s flexible word order to disentangle predictions of competing theories. We find support for key predictions of memory-based theories in reading times at RC verbs, and for key predictions of expectation-based theories in processing difficulty at RC-initial accusative noun phrase (NP) objects, which corpus data suggest should be highly unexpected. These results suggest that a complete theory of syntactic complexity must integrate insights from both expectation-based and memory-based theories.
Sentence comprehension; Parsing; Syntax; Memory limitations in language processing; Expectation-based processing; Russian
Three experiments investigated how font emphasis influences reading and remembering discourse. Although past work suggests that contrastive pitch contours benefit memory by promoting encoding of salient alternatives, it is unclear both whether this effect generalizes to other forms of linguistic prominence and how the set of alternatives is constrained. Participants read discourses in which some true propositions had salient alternatives (e.g., British scientists found the endangered monkey when the discourse also mentioned French scientists) and completed a recognition memory test. In Experiments 1 and 2, font emphasis in the initial presentation increased participants’ ability to later reject false statements about salient alternatives but not about unmentioned items (e.g., Portuguese scientists). In Experiment 3, font emphasis helped reject false statements about plausible alternatives, but not about less plausible alternatives that were nevertheless established in the discourse. These results suggest readers encode a narrow set of only those alternatives plausible in the particular discourse. They also indicate that multiple manipulations of linguistic prominence, not just prosody, can lead to consideration of alternatives.
discourse; recognition memory; reading; alternative sets; fonts
Although foreign accents can be highly dissimilar to native speech, existing research suggests that listeners readily adapt to foreign accents after minimal exposure. However, listeners often report difficulty understanding non-native accents, and the time-course and specificity of adaptation remain unclear. Across five experiments, we examined whether listeners could use a newly learned feature of a foreign accent to eliminate lexical competitors during online speech perception. Participants heard the speech of a native English speaker and a native speaker of Québec French who, in English, pronounces /i/ as [i] (e.g., weak as wick) before all consonants except voiced fricatives. We examined whether listeners could learn to eliminate a shifted /i/-competitor (e.g., weak) when interpreting the accented talker produce an unshifted word (e.g., wheeze). In four experiments, adaptation was strikingly limited, though improvement across the course of the experiment and with stimulus variations indicates learning was possible. In a fifth experiment, adaptation was not improved when a native English talker produced the critical vowel shift, demonstrating that the limitation is not simply due to the fact the accented talker was non-native. These findings suggest that although listeners can arrive at the correct interpretation of a foreign accent, this process can pose significant difficulty.
speech; perception; eye-tracking; foreign accent; accommodation
The utterance planning processes allowing speakers to produce agreement between subjects and verbs (the catspl arepl asleep) have been the topic of extensive study as a window into language production mechanisms. A key question has been the extent to which agreement processing is influenced by semantic and phonological factors. Most prior studies have found limited effects of non-syntactic, particularly phonological factors, leading to conclusions that agreement is computed by a process influenced strongly by syntactic factors and with only a minor contribution of semantics. This conclusion may have been influenced by use of agreement error data as the main dependent variable, because errors are rare, potentially reducing sensitivity to the interaction of several factors. Two studies investigate agreement processing in Serbian, which allows both singular and plural verb forms to agree with plural nouns in some constructions. We use these constructions to further investigate the contribution of semantic factors to agreement, by manipulating levels of individuation of the members of a set. In addition, we investigate the effect of morphophonological homophony onto the participants’ productions of agreeing forms. The findings are discussed in the context of three models of agreement (Marking & Morphing, competition and controller misidentification), which differ in the extent to which they allow the influence of non-syntactic factors on agreement. We also compare the behavioral findings with the predictions of four computational implementations of the Marking & Morphing account. We discuss the implications of the behavioral and computational findings for models of agreement and the language production more broadly.
Some biscuits or a piece of cake… ‘goes’ or ‘go’ better with an afternoon tea?
This priming study investigates the role of conceptual structure during language production, probing whether English speakers are sensitive to the structure of the event encoded by a prime sentence. In two experiments, participants read prime sentences aloud before describing motion events. Primes differed in 1) syntactic frame, 2) degree of lexical and conceptual overlap with target events, and 3) distribution of event components within frames. Results demonstrate that conceptual overlap between primes and targets led to priming of (a) the information that speakers chose to include in their descriptions of target events, (b) the way that information was mapped to linguistic elements, and (c) the syntactic structures that were built to communicate that information. When there was no conceptual overlap between primes and targets, priming was not successful. We conclude that conceptual structure is a level of representation activated during priming, and that it has implications for both Message Planning and Linguistic Formulation.
language production; structural priming; event structure; motion events
Participants read either a metaphorical prime sentence, such as That defense lawyer is a shark, or they read a baseline-prime sentence. The baseline-prime sentence was literally meaningful in Experiment 1 (e.g., That large hammerhead is a shark), nonsensical in Experiment 2 (e.g., His English notebook is a shark), and unrelated in Experiment 3 (e.g., That new student is a clown). After reading the prime sentence, participants verified a target property statement. Verification latencies for property statements relevant to the superordinate category (e.g., Sharks are tenacious) were faster after participants read the metaphor-prime sentence than after they read the baseline-prime sentence, producing an enhancement effect. In contrast, verification latencies for property statements relevant to only the basic-level meaning of the vehicle and not the superordinate (e.g., Sharks are good swimmers), were slower following the metaphor-versus the baseline-prime sentence, producing a suppression effect. As Glucksberg and Keysar’s (1990) class inclusion theory of metaphor predicts, the enhancement effect demonstrates that the vehicle of a metaphor stands for the superordinate category of the vehicle, and the suppression effect demonstrates that the metaphorical vehicle does not stand for its basic-level meaning.
Two ways to examine memory for associative relationships between pairs of words were tested: an explicit method, associative recognition, and an implicit method, priming in item recognition. In an experiment with both kinds of tests, participants were asked to learn pairs of words. For the explicit test, participants were asked to decide whether two words of a test pair had been studied in the same or different pairs. For the implicit test, participants were asked to decide whether single words had or had not been among the studied pairs. Some test words were immediately preceded in the test list by the other word of the same pair and some by a word from a different pair. Diffusion model (Ratcliff, 1978; Ratcliff & McKoon, 2008) analyses were carried out for both tasks for college-age participants, 60–74 year olds, and 75–90 year olds, and for higher- and lower-IQ participants, in order to compare the two measures of associative strength. Results showed parallel behavior of drift rates for associative recognition and priming across ages and across IQ, indicating that they are based, at least to some degree, on the same information in memory.
Priming; Item recognition; Associative recognition; Aging
Young word learners fail to discriminate phonetic contrasts in certain situations, an observation that has been used to support arguments that the nature of lexical representation and lexical processing changes over development. An alternative possibility, however, is that these failures arise naturally as a result of how word familiarity affects lexical processing. In the present work, we explored the effects of word familiarity on adults’ use of phonetic detail. Participants’ eye movements were monitored as they heard single-segment onset mispronunciations of words drawn from a newly learned artificial lexicon. In Experiment 1, single-feature onset mispronunciations were presented; in Experiment 2, participants heard two-feature onset mispronunciations. Word familiarity was manipulated in both experiments by presenting words with various frequencies during training. Both word familiarity and degree of mismatch affected adults’ use of phonetic detail: in their looking behavior, participants did not reliably differentiate single-feature mispronunciations and correct pronunciations of low frequency words. For higher frequency words, participants differentiated both 1- and 2-feature mispronunciations from correct pronunciations. However, responses were graded such that 2-feature mispronunciations had a greater effect on looking behavior. These experiments demonstrate that the use of phonetic detail in adults, as in young children, is affected by word familiarity. Parallels between the two populations suggest continuity in the architecture underlying lexical representation and processing throughout development.
Artificial lexicon; Spoken word recognition; Phonetic sensitivity; Word familiarity; Developmental continuity; Visual world paradigm
Although frequently used with recognition, a few studies have used the Remember/Know procedure with free recall. In each case, participants gave Know judgments to a significant number of recalled items (items that were presumably not remembered on the basis of familiarity). What do these Know judgments mean? We investigated this issue using a source memory/free-recall procedure. For each word that was recalled, participants were asked to (a) make a confidence rating on a 5-point scale, (b) make a Remember/Know judgment, and (c) recollect a source detail. The large majority of both Remember judgments and Know judgments were made with high confidence and high accuracy, but source memory was nevertheless higher for Remember judgments than for Know judgments. These source memory results correspond to what is found using recognition, and they raise the possibility that Know judgments in free recall identify the cue-dependent retrieval of item-only information from an episodic memory search set. In agreement with this idea, we also found that the temporal dynamics of free recall were similar for high-confidence Remember and high-confidence Know judgments (as if both judgments reflected retrieval from the same search set). If Know judgments in free recall do in fact reflect the episodic retrieval of item-only information, it seems reasonable to suppose that the same might be true of high-confidence Know judgments in recognition. If so, then a longstanding debate about the role of the hippocampus in recollection and familiarity may have a natural resolution.
Recollection; Familiarity; Recall; Recognition
Probabilistic expectations and memory limitations are central factors
governing the real-time comprehension of natural language, but how the two
factors interact remains poorly understood. One respect in which the two factors
have come into theoretical conflict is the documentation of both
locality effects, in which more dependents preceding a
governing verb increase processing difficulty at the verb, and
anti-locality effects, in which more preceding dependents
facilitate processing at the verb. However, no controlled study has previously
demonstrated both locality and anti-locality effects in the same type of
dependency relation within the same language. Additionally, many previous
demonstrations of anti-locality effects have been potentially confounded with
lexical identity, plausibility, and sentence position. Here, we provide new
evidence of both locality and anti-locality effects in the same type of
dependency relation in a single language—verb-final constructions in
German—while controlling for lexical identity, plausibility, and
sentence position. In main clauses, we find clear anti-locality effects, with
the presence of a preceding dative argument facilitating processing at the final
verb; in subject-extracted relative clauses with identical linear ordering of
verbal dependents, we find both anti-locality and locality effects, with
processing facilitated when the verb is preceded by a dative argument alone, but
hindered when the verb is preceded by both the dative argument and an adjunct.
These results indicate that both expectations and memory limitations need to be
accounted for in any complete theory of online syntactic comprehension.
•We reconcile conflicting theories about vowels and consonants in early perception.•Mispronunciation sensitivity is modulated by the size and structure of the lexicon.•Asymmetries in mispronunciation can be explained with a fully specified phonology.•Inhibition at a phoneme level and/or at a lexical level is likely reduced in infancy.•Claim that words from dense neighbourhoods are harder to learn needs a stronger test.
The TRACE model of speech perception (McClelland & Elman, 1986) is used to simulate results from the infant word recognition literature, to provide a unified, theoretical framework for interpreting these findings. In a first set of simulations, we demonstrate how TRACE can reconcile apparently conflicting findings suggesting, on the one hand, that consonants play a pre-eminent role in lexical acquisition (Nespor, Peña & Mehler, 2003; Nazzi, 2005), and on the other, that there is a symmetry in infant sensitivity to vowel and consonant mispronunciations of familiar words (Mani & Plunkett, 2007). In a second series of simulations, we use TRACE to simulate infants’ graded sensitivity to mispronunciations of familiar words as reported by White and Morgan (2008). An unexpected outcome is that TRACE fails to demonstrate graded sensitivity for White and Morgan’s stimuli unless the inhibitory parameters in TRACE are substantially reduced. We explore the ramifications of this finding for theories of lexical development. Finally, TRACE mimics the impact of phonological neighbourhoods on early word learning reported by Swingley and Aslin (2007). TRACE offers an alternative explanation of these findings in terms of mispronunciations of lexical items rather than imputing word learning to infants. Together these simulations provide an evaluation of Developmental (Jusczyk, 1993) and Familiarity (Metsala, 1999) accounts of word recognition by infants and young children. The findings point to a role for both theoretical approaches whereby vocabulary structure and content constrain infant word recognition in an experience-dependent fashion, and highlight the continuity in the processes and representations involved in lexical development during the second year of life.
Phonological specificity; Vowels; Consonants; Lexical representation; Lexical competition; TRACE model
Two experiments employing an auditory priming paradigm were conducted to test predictions of the Neighborhood Activation Model of spoken word recognition (Luce & Pisoni, 1989, Neighborhoods of words in the mental lexicon. Manuscript under review). Acoustic–phonetic similarity, neighborhood densities, and frequencies of prime and target words were manipulated. In Experiment 1, priming with low frequency, phonetically related spoken words inhibited target recognition, as predicted by the Neighborhood Activation Model. In Experiment 2, the same prime-target pairs were presented with a longer inter-stimulus interval and the effects of priming were eliminated. In both experiments, predictions derived from the Neighborhood Activation Model regarding the effects of neighborhood density and word frequency were supported. The results are discussed in terms of competing activation of lexical neighbors and the dissociation of activation and frequency in spoken word recognition.
Linear mixed-effects models (LMEMs) have become increasingly prominent in psycholinguistics and related areas. However, many researchers do not seem to appreciate how random effects structures affect the generalizability of an analysis. Here, we argue that researchers using LMEMs for confirmatory hypothesis testing should minimally adhere to the standards that have been in place for many decades. Through theoretical arguments and Monte Carlo simulation, we show that LMEMs generalize best when they include the maximal random effects structure justified by the design. The generalization performance of LMEMs including data-driven random effects structures strongly depends upon modeling criteria and sample size, yielding reasonable results on moderately-sized samples when conservative criteria are used, but with little or no power advantage over maximal models. Finally, random-intercepts-only LMEMs used on within-subjects and/or within-items data from populations where subjects and/or items vary in their sensitivity to experimental manipulations always generalize worse than separate F1 and F2 tests, and in many cases, even worse than F1 alone. Maximal LMEMs should be the ‘gold standard’ for confirmatory hypothesis testing in psycholinguistics and beyond.
linear mixed-effects models; generalization; statistics; Monte Carlo simulation
Performance on a wide variety of memory tasks can be hypothesized to be influenced by processes associated with controlling the contents of memory. In this project 328 adults ranging from 18 to 93 years of age performed six tasks (e.g., multiple trial recall with an interpolated interference list, directed forgetting, proactive interference, and retrieval inhibition) postulated to yield measures of the effectiveness of memory control. Although most of the patterns from earlier studies were replicated, only a few of the measures of memory control were reliable at the level of individual differences. Furthermore, the memory control measures had very weak relations with the age of the participant. Analyses examining the relations between established cognitive abilities and variables from the experimental tasks revealed that most of the variables were related only to episodic memory ability.
Control of memory contents; Aging; Individual differences; Memory processing
Behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures are reported for a study in which relatively proficient Chinese-English bilinguals named identical pictures in each of their two languages. Production occurred only in Chinese (the first language, L1) or only in English (the second language, L2) in a given block with the order counterbalanced across participants. The repetition of pictures across blocks was expected to produce facilitation in the form of faster responses and more positive ERPs. However, we hypothesized that if both languages are activated when naming one language alone, there might be evidence of inhibition of the stronger L1 to enable naming in the weaker L2. Behavioral data revealed the dominance of Chinese relative to English, with overall faster and more accurate naming performance in L1 than L2. However, reaction times for naming in L1 after naming in L2 showed no repetition advantage and the ERP data showed greater negativity when pictures were named in L1 following L2. This greater negativity for repeated items suggests the presence of inhibition rather than facilitation alone. Critically, the asymmetric negativity associated with the L1 when it followed the L2 endured beyond the immediate switch of language, implying long-lasting inhibition of the L1. In contrast, when L2 naming followed L1, both behavioral and ERP evidence produced a facilitatory pattern, consistent with repetition priming. Taken together, the results support a model of bilingual lexical production in which candidates in both languages compete for selection, with inhibition of the more dominant L1 when planning speech in the less dominant L2. We discuss the implications for modeling the scope and time course of inhibitory processes.
lexical selection; language production; inhibition; bilingualism