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Title: Are interpretations of syntactic ambiguities under working memory load "good-enough"? : evidence from eye movements
Author: Cooper, Nicholas M. D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 2497
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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Syntactically ambiguous sentences offer an insight into how sentences generally are processed, by examining how readers recognise and reanalyse the ambiguity. However, it is only more recently that the comprehension product of syntactic analysis has been adequately tested, demonstrating that ambiguities are not always fully processed. This work has led to the good-enough approach to language processing and comprehension (e.g., Ferreira & Patson, 2007), which argues that sentence processing is merely good enough for the current task, and that our comprehension may not exactly match the content of what has been read. The work presented in this thesis set out to examine what it means for syntactic ambiguity processing to be good enough, by monitoring patterns of eye movements as people read sentences containing a temporary syntactic ambiguity. Comprehension questions probed the extent to which the syntactic ambiguity had been resolved. Across six experiments, it was demonstrated that both online sentence processing and comprehension are influenced by the presence of an extrinsic memory load, the presence or absence of comprehension questions, the length of texts being read, and the age of participants. Eye movement patterns were more superficial if the task permitted it; similarly, syntactic ambiguities were misinterpreted more commonly as the task demands increased. The results support a good-enough, adaptive sentence processing system, where initial misinterpretations can linger in the product of syntactic analysis, and which is affected by task demands and individual differences.
Supervisor: Nation, Kate Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Experimental psychology ; Psychology of reading ; Cognitive psychology ; Psycholinguistics ; Psychology and ageing