Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Two new papers from our lab

We have several new papers that have come out recently, both part of Lena Jaeger's dissertation.

Lena A. Jäger, Felix Engelmann, and Shravan Vasishth. Retrieval interference in reflexive processing: Experimental evidence from Mandarin, and computational modelingFrontiers in Psychology, 6(617), 2015. [ DOI | pdf ]
We conducted two eye-tracking experiments investigating the processing of the Mandarin reflexive ziji in order to tease apart structurally constrained accounts from standard cue-based accounts of memory retrieval. In both experiments, we tested whether structurally inaccessible distractors that fulfill the animacy requirement of ziji influence processing times at the reflexive. In Experiment 1, we manipulated animacy of the antecedent and a structurally inaccessible distractor intervening between the antecedent and the reflexive. In conditions where the accessible antecedent mismatched the animacy cue, we found inhibitory interference whereas in antecedent-match conditions, no effect of the distractor was observed. In Experiment 2, we tested only antecedent-match configurations and manipulated locality of the reflexive-antecedent binding (Mandarin allows non-local binding). Participants were asked to hold three distractors (animate vs. inanimate nouns) in memory while reading the target sentence. We found slower reading times when animate distractors were held in memory (inhibitory interference). Moreover, we replicated the locality effect reported in previous studies. These results are incompatible with structure-based accounts. However, the cue-based ACT-R model of Lewis and Vasishth (2005) cannot explain the observed pattern either. We therefore extend the original ACT-R model and show how this model not only explains the data presented in this article, but is also able to account for previously unexplained patterns in the literature on reflexive processing.

Lena A. Jäger, Lena Benz, Jens Roeser, Brian W. Dillon, and Shravan Vasishth. Teasing apart retrieval and encoding interference in the processing of anaphorsFrontiers in Psychology, 6(506), 2015. [ DOI | http ]
Two classes of account have been proposed to explain the memory processes subserving the processing of reflexive-antecedent dependencies. Structure-based accounts assume that the retrieval of the antecedent is guided by syntactic tree-configurational information without considering other kinds of information such as gender marking in the case of English reflexives. By contrast, unconstrained cue-based retrieval assumes that all available information is used for retrieving the antecedent. Similarity-based interference effects from structurally illicit distractors which match a non-structural retrieval cue have been interpreted as evidence favoring the unconstrained cue-based retrieval account since cue-based retrieval interference from structurally illicit distractors is incompatible with the structure-based account. However, it has been argued that the observed effects do not necessarily reflect interference occurring at the moment of retrieval but might equally well be accounted for by interference occurring already at the stage of encoding or maintaining the antecedent in memory, in which case they cannot be taken as evidence against the structure-based account. We present three experiments (self-paced reading and eye-tracking) on German reflexives and Swedish reflexive and pronominal possessives in which we pit the predictions of encoding interference and cue-based retrieval interference against each other. We could not find any indication that encoding interference affects the processing ease of the reflexive-antecedent dependency formation. Thus, there is no evidence that encoding interference might be the explanation for the interference effects observed in previous work. We therefore conclude that invoking encoding interference may not be a plausible way to reconcile interference effects with a structure-based account of reflexive processing.

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