[PS-3.40] Illusions of Plausibility and Retrieval Interference in Long Distance Dependencies: Evidence from Eye-Movements During Reading

Cunnings, I. 1 & Sturt, P. 2

1 University of Reading
2 University of Edinburgh

'Illusions of grammaticality', where ungrammatical sentences are perceived grammatical, are key evidence of retrieval interference during comprehension (Vasishth et al., 2008; Wagers et al. 2009). Although such studies show that interference influences grammaticality, how interference affects interpretation is unknown.

We manipulated sentence plausibility to investigate this issue. 48 participants read sentences like (1). In (1a), 'plate' is a plausible object of 'shattered' while in (1b) 'letter' is implausible. A distractor was either a plausible ('cup') or implausible ('tie'), but ungrammatical, object of 'shattered'. We predicted longer reading times in (1b) than (1a). Attenuation of this plausibility effect when the distractor was plausible would indicate an illusion of plausibility, implicating that interference affects interpretation.

Reading times after 'shattered' were longer in (1b). Significant interactions were found in regression-path and second-pass times, where this plausibility effect was significantly attenuated when the distractor was plausible.

These results implicate illusions of plausibility during comprehension, indicating that interference affects not only perception of sentence grammaticality, but also has a potent influence on sentence interpretation.

(1a) Sue remembered the plate that the butler with the cup/tie accidently shattered today in the dining room.
(1b) Sue remembered the letter that the butler with the cup/tie accidently shattered...