Speaking for seeing: Sentence structure guides visual event apprehension

Sauppe, S., & Flecken, M. (2021). Speaking for seeing: Sentence structure guides visual event apprehension. Cognition, 206: 104516. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104516.
Human experience and communication are centred on events, and event apprehension is a rapid process that draws on the visual perception and immediate categorization of event roles (“who does what to whom”). We demonstrate a role for syntactic structure in visual information uptake for event apprehension. An event structure foregrounding either the agent or patient was activated during speaking, transiently modulating the apprehension of subsequently viewed unrelated events. Speakers of Dutch described pictures with actives and passives (agent and patient foregrounding, respectively). First fixations on pictures of unrelated events that were briefly presented (for 300 ms) next were influenced by the active or passive structure of the previously produced sentence. Going beyond the study of how single words cue object perception, we show that sentence structure guides the viewpoint taken during rapid event apprehension.
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