Keeping the result in sight and mind: General cognitive principles and language-specific influences in the perception and memory of resultative events

We study how people attend to and memorize endings of events that differ in the degree to which objects in them are affected by an action: Resultative events show objects that undergo a visually salient change in state during the course of the event (peeling a potato), and non‐resultative events involve objects that undergo no, or only partial state change (stirring in a pan). We investigate general cognitive principles, and potential language‐specific influences, in verbal and nonverbal event encoding and memory, across two experiments with Dutch and Estonian participants. Estonian marks a viewer's perspective on an event's result obligatorily via grammatical case on direct object nouns: Objects undergoing a partial/full change in state in an event are marked with partitive/accusative case, respectively. Therefore, we hypothesized increased saliency of object states and event results in Estonian speakers, as compared to speakers of Dutch. Findings show (a) a general cognitive principle of attending carefully to endings of resultative events, implying cognitive saliency of object states in event processing; (b) a language‐specific boost on attention and memory of event results under verbal task demands in Estonian speakers. Results are discussed in relation to theories of event cognition, linguistic relativity, and thinking for speaking.
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