First NP-as-agent bias does not prevent active from passive discrimination in 25-month-olds.

Abbot-Smith, Kirsten, Chang, F, Rowland, C, Ferguson, Heather J., Pine, J (2015) First NP-as-agent bias does not prevent active from passive discrimination in 25-month-olds. In: 40th Boston University Conference on Language Development, 13-15 November, Boston, USA. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

In this study, we used pointing and eye-tracking to measure how 25- and 42-month-olds interpret the English passive (the boy is being refted by the girl), which has traditionally been considered ‘late-acquired’. We tested a) whether 25- and 42-month-olds can, in fact, interpret the passive in tasks with low task demands, and b) whether any poor performance could be attributed to an incremental processing heuristic known as the ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias; a bias which (erroneously, in the case of the passive), causes children to map the NP preceding the verb onto the agent of a causative (Bever, 1970; MacWhinney & Bates, 1982). Study 1 used forced-choice pointing, in which children heard active or passive sentences (between-subjects) and were asked to point to one of two video clips of novel causative events, both involving a boy and a girl. In one clip the boy was the agent and in the other the boy was the patient. Participants were 50 25-month-olds and 50 42-month-olds. The 42-month-olds (but not the 25-month-olds) correctly interpreted the full passive with novel verbs. In Study 2, 58 25-month-olds, 58 42-month-olds and 44 adults were eye-tracked with a Tobii X120 whilst watching the same set of video clips (see Study 1). This paradigm was adapted from Gertner, Fisher and Eisengart’s (2006) preferential-looking study. Participants in each age group either heard active transitive or passive sentences with novel verbs (between-subjects). During each test trial, participants first saw the clip pair without audio. The data were analysed using a permutation analysis. This allowed us to avoid any prior assumptions about appropriate analysis regions, an important constraint since a range of task-related issues (cf. Arunachalam et al., 2012; Fernald, Perfors & Marchman, 2006) can affect visual-scanning and lexical-processing speed across development (e.g. Manning, Dacking, Tibber & Pellicano, 2014). Permutation analysis identifies clusters in the data that exhibit a significant difference between two conditions (von Holzen & Mani, 2012) and controls for multiple comparisons. These clusters are specific to each age group and hence capture the age-specific processes that are sensitive to the manipulation. The results showed that both child age groups showed clusters which significantly distinguished the passive from the active (Figure 1). To investigate the ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias, we also compared gaze preference after the onset of the audio with a baseline region (2500 msec prior to the onset of the audio, Figure 2). Adults did not show a ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias (presumably because they are more likely to expect patient subjects). However, both 25- and 42-month-olds showed a bias to map the first NP (‘the boy/girl is….’) onto an agent before they had fully processed the second NP. Thus, 25- and 42-month-olds’ interpretation of the passive is influenced by an early, incremental ‘first-NP-as-agent’ bias. This eye-tracking study is the first to find that 25-month-olds can distinguish actives and passives and children have multiple competing biases at different points in sentence processing.

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Poster)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology > Developmental Psychology
Faculties > Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Kirsten Abbot-Smith
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2015 08:55 UTC
Last Modified: 29 May 2019 16:25 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/52014 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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