Center Papers

Tooley, Swaab, Boudewyn, Zirnstein & Traxler (2013)

Tooley, K.M., Swaab, T.Y., Boudewyn, M.A., Zirnstein, M., & Traxler, M.J. (2013). Evidence for priming across intervening sentences during on-line sentence comprehension. Language and Cognitive Processes. ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Three experiments investigated factors contributing to syntactic priming during on-line comprehension. In all of the experiments, a prime sentence containing a reduced relative clause was presented prior to a target sentence that contained the same structure. Previous studies have shown that people respond more quickly when a syntactically related prime sentence immediately precedes a target. In the current study, ERP and eye-tracking measures were used to assess whether priming in sentence comprehension persists when one or more unrelated filler sentences appear between the prime and the target. In experiment 1, a reduced P600 was found to target sentences both when there were no intervening unrelated fillers, and when there was one unrelated filler between the prime and the target. Thus, processing the prime sentence facilitated processing of the syntactic form of the target sentence. In experiments 2 and 3, eye-tracking experiments showed that target sentence processing was facilitated when three filler sentences intervened between the prime and the target. These experiments show that priming effects in comprehension can be observed when unrelated material appears after a prime sentence and before the target. We interpret the results with respect to residual activation and implicit learning accounts of priming.