Effects of event knowledge in processing verbal arguments

Klinton Bicknell*, Jeffrey L. Elman, Mary Hare, Ken McRae, Marta Kutas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


This research tests whether comprehenders use their knowledge of typical events in real time to process verbal arguments. In self-paced reading and event-related brain potential (ERP) experiments, we used materials in which the likelihood of a specific patient noun (brakes or spelling) depended on the combination of an agent and verb (mechanic checked vs. journalist checked). Reading times were shorter at the word directly following the patient for the congruent than the incongruent items. Differential N400s were found earlier, immediately at the patient. Norming studies ruled out any account of these results based on direct relations between the agent and patient. Thus, comprehenders dynamically combine information about real-world events based on intrasentential agents and verbs, and this combination then rapidly influences online sentence interpretation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-505
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2010


  • Event knowledge
  • Event-related potentials
  • Language comprehension
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Self-paced reading
  • Sentence processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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