Examining mental simulations of uncertain events

Ferguson, Heather J. and Tresh, Miriam and Leblond, Julien (2013) Examining mental simulations of uncertain events. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 20 (2). pp. 391-399. ISSN 1069-9384. (Full text available)

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http://dx.doi.org/10.3758/s13423-012-0348-1

Abstract

A great deal of research into the experiential nature of language has demonstrated that our understanding of events is facilitated through mental simulations of the described linguistic input. However, to date little is understood about how contextual uncertainty about the described event might influence the content and strength of these mental representations, or the cognitive effort involved. In this paper, we report a single experiment, where participants read sentences, such as “The old lady [knows/thinks] that the picnic basket is open”. Following a delay of 250ms or 1500ms, they responded to pictures that varied in the physical form of the target object (matching vs. mismatching). Results revealed an expected facilitation effect for matching images, but more importantly they also showed interference effects (longer reaction times) at the shorter ISI (250ms), following the uncertain verb ‘thinks’ compared to the certain verb ‘knows’. At the longer ISI, this effect was no longer present. This suggests that at the short ISI, uncertain conditions required extra time to construct and map a simulation of events onto the available image. Results are discussed in terms of the mechanisms involved in representing possible events and with reference to related literature on perspective-taking.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled keywords: Situation model, language comprehension, uncertainty
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
Depositing User: Heather Ferguson
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2012 09:20
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2014 14:15
Resource URI: http://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/32135 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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