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An eye-tracking investigation into readers’ sensitivity to actual versus expected utility in the comprehension of conditionals

Haigh, Matthew, Ferguson, Heather J., Stewart, Andrew J. (2014) An eye-tracking investigation into readers’ sensitivity to actual versus expected utility in the comprehension of conditionals. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67 (1). pp. 166-185. ISSN 1747-0218. (doi:10.1080/17470218.2013.797475) (KAR id:33569)

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The successful comprehension of a utility conditional (i.e., an ‘if p, then q’ statement where p and/or q is valued by one or more agents) requires the construction of a mental representation of the situation described by that conditional, and integration of this representation with prior context. In an eye-tracking experiment, we examined the time course of integrating conditional utility information into the broader discourse model. Specifically, the experiment determined whether readers were sensitive, during rapid heuristic processing, to the congruency between the utility of the consequent clause of a conditional (positive or negative) and a reader’s subjective expectations based on prior context. On a number of eye-tracking measures we found that readers were sensitive to conditional utility; conditionals for which the consequent utility mismatched that which would be anticipated on the basis of prior context resulted in processing disruption. Crucially, this sensitivity emerged on measures which are accepted to indicate early processing within the language comprehension system, and suggests that the evaluation

of a conditional’s utility informs the early stages of conditional processing.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/17470218.2013.797475
Uncontrolled keywords: Conditionals; Discourse processing; Eye movements; Reading
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Heather Ferguson
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2013 10:01 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 05:06 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Ferguson, Heather J.:
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