Online Expectations for Verbal Arguments Conditional on Event Knowledge

Klinton O'Neal Bicknell, Jeffrey L. Elman, Mary Hare, Ken McRae, Marta Kutas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper provides support for the hypothesis that comprehenders form online expectations for upcoming verbal arguments using their knowledge of typical events. We test this hypothesis in a self-paced reading experiment and an experiment measuring event-related brain potentials. In both experiments, we use materials in which the likelihood of the verbal patient depends on event knowledge about the particular combination of agent and verb earlier in the sentence. By manipulating the agent for a given verb, we show that comprehenders experience more processing difficulty in sentences where the patient is less likely. Norming studies and a priming experiment provide evidence that this result is unlikely to have arisen from direct linguistic associations between patient and agent, suggesting that comprehenders use their event knowledge to form expectations.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 30th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society
EditorsB C Love, Ken McRae, V M Sloutsky
Place of PublicationAustin, TX
PublisherCognitive Science Society
Number of pages6
StatePublished - 2008

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