Skip to main content

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) (KAR id:52014)

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. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL
http://www.bu.edu/bucld/conference-info/schedule/

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).

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 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: 06 Feb 2020 04:13 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/52014 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Abbot-Smith, Kirsten: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8623-0664
Ferguson, Heather J.: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1575-4820
  • Depositors only (login required):