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Favier, S., Wright, A., Meyer, A. S., & Huettig, F. (2019). Proficiency modulates between- but not within-language structural priming. Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 3(suppl. 1), 105-124. doi:10.1007/s41809-019-00029-1.
AbstractThe oldest of the Celtic language family, Irish differs considerably from English, notably with respect to word order and case marking. In spite of differences in surface constituent structure, less restricted accounts of bilingual shared syntax predict that processing datives and passives in Irish should prime the production of their English equivalents. Furthermore, this cross-linguistic influence should be sensitive to L2 proficiency, if shared structural representations are assumed to develop over time. In Experiment 1, we investigated cross-linguistic structural priming from Irish to English in 47 bilingual adolescents who are educated through Irish. Testing took place in a classroom setting, using written primes and written sentence generation. We found that priming for prepositional-object (PO) datives was predicted by self-rated Irish (L2) proficiency, in line with previous studies. In Experiment 2, we presented translations of the materials to an English-educated control group (n=54). We found a within-language priming effect for PO datives, which was not modulated by English (L1) proficiency. Our findings are compatible with current theories of bilingual language processing and L2 syntactic acquisition.
Hervais-Adelman, A., Kumar, U., Mishra, R. K., Tripathi, V. N., Guleria, A., Singh, J. P., Eisner, F., & Huettig, F. (2019). Learning to read recycles visual cortical networks without destruction. Science Advances, 5(9): eaax0262. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aax0262.
AbstractLearning to read is associated with the appearance of an orthographically sensitive brain region known as the visual word form area. It has been claimed that development of this area proceeds by impinging upon territory otherwise available for the processing of culturally relevant stimuli such as faces and houses. In a large-scale functional magnetic resonance imaging study of a group of individuals of varying degrees of literacy (from completely illiterate to highly literate), we examined cortical responses to orthographic and nonorthographic visual stimuli. We found that literacy enhances responses to other visual input in early visual areas and enhances representational similarity between text and faces, without reducing the extent of response to nonorthographic input. Thus, acquisition of literacy in childhood recycles existing object representation mechanisms but without destructive competition.
Huettig, F., & Guerra, E. (2019). Effects of speech rate, preview time of visual context, and participant instructions reveal strong limits on prediction in language processing. Brain Research, 1706, 196-208. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2018.11.013.
AbstractThere is a consensus among language researchers that people can predict upcoming language. But do people always predict when comprehending language? Notions that “brains … are essentially prediction machines” certainly suggest so. In three eye-tracking experiments we tested this view. Participants listened to simple Dutch sentences (‘Look at the displayed bicycle’) while viewing four objects (a target, e.g. a bicycle, and three unrelated distractors). We used the identical visual stimuli and the same spoken sentences but varied speech rates, preview time, and participant instructions. Target nouns were preceded by definite gender-marked determiners, which allowed participants to predict the target object because only the targets but not the distractors agreed in gender with the determiner. In Experiment 1, participants had four seconds preview and sentences were presented either in a slow or a normal speech rate. Participants predicted the targets as soon as they heard the determiner in both conditions. Experiment 2 was identical except that participants were given only a one second preview. Participants predicted the targets only in the slow speech condition. Experiment 3 was identical to Experiment 2 except that participants were explicitly told to predict. This led only to a small prediction effect in the normal speech condition. Thus, a normal speech rate only afforded prediction if participants had an extensive preview. Even the explicit instruction to predict the target resulted in only a small anticipation effect with a normal speech rate and a short preview. These findings are problematic for theoretical proposals that assume that prediction pervades cognition.
Mantegna, F., Hintz, F., Ostarek, M., Alday, P. M., & Huettig, F. (2019). Distinguishing integration and prediction accounts of ERP N400 modulations in language processing through experimental design. Neuropsychologia, 134: 107199. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.107199.
AbstractPrediction of upcoming input is thought to be a main characteristic of language processing (e.g. Altmann & Mirkovic, 2009; Dell & Chang, 2014; Federmeier, 2007; Ferreira & Chantavarin, 2018; Pickering & Gambi, 2018; Hale, 2001; Hickok, 2012; Huettig 2015; Kuperberg & Jaeger, 2016; Levy, 2008; Norris, McQueen, & Cutler, 2016; Pickering & Garrod, 2013; Van Petten & Luka, 2012). One of the main pillars of experimental support for this notion comes from studies that have attempted to measure electrophysiological markers of prediction when participants read or listened to sentences ending in highly predictable words. The N400, a negative-going and centro-parietally distributed component of the ERP occurring approximately 400ms after (target) word onset, has been frequently interpreted as indexing prediction of the word (or the semantic representations and/or the phonological form of the predicted word, see Kutas & Federmeier, 2011; Nieuwland, 2019; Van Petten & Luka, 2012; for review). A major difficulty for interpreting N400 effects in language processing however is that it has been difficult to establish whether N400 target word modulations conclusively reflect prediction rather than (at least partly) ease of integration. In the present exploratory study, we attempted to distinguish lexical prediction (i.e. ‘top-down’ activation) from lexical integration (i.e. ‘bottom-up’ activation) accounts of ERP N400 modulations in language processing.
Supplementary materialSupplementary Data All Materials, data and analysis scripts on the Open Science Framework (OSF)
Nuthmann, A., De Groot, F., Huettig, F., & Olivers, C. L. N. (2019). Extrafoveal attentional capture by object semantics. PLoS One, 14(5): e0217051. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0217051.
AbstractThere is ongoing debate on whether object meaning can be processed outside foveal vision, making semantics available for attentional guidance. Much of the debate has centred on whether objects that do not fit within an overall scene draw attention, in complex displays that are often difficult to control. Here, we revisited the question by reanalysing data from three experiments that used displays consisting of standalone objects from a carefully controlled stimulus set. Observers searched for a target object, as per auditory instruction. On the critical trials, the displays contained no target but objects that were semantically related to the target, visually related, or unrelated. Analyses using (generalized) linear mixed-effects models showed that, although visually related objects attracted most attention, semantically related objects were also fixated earlier in time than unrelated objects. Moreover, semantic matches affected the very first saccade in the display. The amplitudes of saccades that first entered semantically related objects were larger than 5° on average, confirming that object semantics is available outside foveal vision. Finally, there was no semantic capture of attention for the same objects when observers did not actively look for the target, confirming that it was not stimulus-driven. We discuss the implications for existing models of visual cognition.
Ostarek, M., Joosen, D., Ishag, A., De Nijs, M., & Huettig, F. (2019). Are visual processes causally involved in “perceptual simulation” effects in the sentence-picture verification task? Cognition, 182, 84-94. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2018.08.017.
AbstractMany studies have shown that sentences implying an object to have a certain shape produce a robust reaction time advantage for shape-matching pictures in the sentence-picture verification task. Typically, this finding has been interpreted as evidence for perceptual simulation, i.e., that access to implicit shape information involves the activation of modality-specific visual processes. It follows from this proposal that disrupting visual processing during sentence comprehension should interfere with perceptual simulation and obliterate the match effect. Here we directly test this hypothesis. Participants listened to sentences while seeing either visual noise that was previously shown to strongly interfere with basic visual processing or a blank screen. Experiments 1 and 2 replicated the match effect but crucially visual noise did not modulate it. When an interference technique was used that targeted high-level semantic processing (Experiment 3) however the match effect vanished. Visual noise specifically targeting high-level visual processes (Experiment 4) only had a minimal effect on the match effect. We conclude that the shape match effect in the sentence-picture verification paradigm is unlikely to rely on perceptual simulation.
Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2019). Six challenges for embodiment research. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 28(6), 593-599. doi:10.1177/0963721419866441.
Abstract20 years after Barsalou's seminal perceptual symbols paper (Barsalou, 1999), embodied cognition, the notion that cognition involves simulations of sensory, motor, or affective states, has moved in status from an outlandish proposal advanced by a fringe movement in psychology to a mainstream position adopted by large numbers of researchers in the psychological and cognitive (neuro)sciences. While it has generated highly productive work in the cognitive sciences as a whole, it had a particularly strong impact on research into language comprehension. The view of a mental lexicon based on symbolic word representations, which are arbitrarily linked to sensory aspects of their referents, for example, was generally accepted since the cognitive revolution in the 1950s. This has radically changed. Given the current status of embodiment as a main theory of cognition, it is somewhat surprising that a close look at the state of the affairs in the literature reveals that the debate about the nature of the processes involved in language comprehension is far from settled and key questions remain unanswered. We present several suggestions for a productive way forward.
Ostarek, M., Ishag, I., Joosen, D., & Huettig, F. (2018). Saccade trajectories reveal dynamic interactions of semantic and spatial information during the processing of implicitly spatial words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 44(10), 1658-1670. doi:10.1037/xlm0000536.
AbstractImplicit up/down words, such as bird and foot, systematically influence performance on visual tasks involving immediately following targets in compatible vs. incompatible locations. Recent studies have observed that the semantic relation between prime words and target pictures can strongly influence the size and even the direction of the effect: Semantically related targets are processed faster in congruent vs. incongruent locations (location-specific priming), whereas unrelated targets are processed slower in congruent locations. Here, we used eye-tracking to investigate the moment-to-moment processes underlying this pattern. Our reaction time results for related targets replicated the location-specific priming effect and showed a trend towards interference for unrelated targets. We then used growth curve analysis to test how up/down words and their match vs. mismatch with immediately following targets in terms of semantics and vertical location influences concurrent saccadic eye movements. There was a strong main effect of spatial association on linear growth with up words biasing changes in y-coordinates over time upwards relative to down words (and vice versa). Similar to the RT data, this effect was strongest for semantically related targets and reversed for unrelated targets. Intriguingly, all conditions showed a bias in the congruent direction in the initial stage of the saccade. Then, at around halfway into the saccade the effect kept increasing in the semantically related condition, and reversed in the unrelated condition. These results suggest that online processing of up/down words triggers direction-specific oculomotor processes that are dynamically modulated by the semantic relation between prime words and targets.