Anticipatory looks reveal expectations about discourse relations

Hannah Rohde*, William S. Horton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Previous research provides evidence for expectation-driven processing within sentences at phonological, lexical, and syntactic levels of linguistic structure. Less well-established is whether comprehenders also anticipate pragmatic relationships between sentences. To address this, we evaluate a unit of discourse structure that comprehenders must infer to hold between sentences in order for a discourse to make sense-the intersentential coherence relation. In a novel eyetracking paradigm, we trained participants to associate particular spatial locations with particular coherence relations. Experiment 1 shows that the subset of listeners who successfully acquired the location~relation mappings during training subsequently looked to these locations during testing in response to a coherence-signaling intersentential connective. Experiment 2 finds that listeners' looks during sentences containing coherence-biasing verbs reveal expectations about upcoming sentence types. This work extends existing research on prediction beyond sentence-internal structure and provides a new methodology for examining the cues that comprehenders use to establish relationships at the discourse level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-691
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Coherence relations
  • Discourse comprehension
  • Eye tracking
  • Implicit causality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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