Thematic role tracking difficulties across multiple visual events influences role use in language production
Jessop, A., & Chang, F.
Thematic role tracking difficulties across multiple visual events influences role use in language production. Visual Cognition, 30
(3), 151-173. doi:10.1080/13506285.2021.2013374.
Language sometimes requires tracking the same participant in different thematic roles across multiple visual events (e.g., The girl that another girl pushed chased a third girl). To better understand how vision and language interact in role tracking, participants described videos of multiple randomly moving circles where two push events were presented. A circle might have the same role in both push events (e.g., agent) or different roles (e.g., agent of one push and patient of other push). The first three studies found higher production accuracy for the same role conditions compared to the different role conditions across different linguistic structure manipulations. The last three studies compared a featural account, where role information was associated with particular circles, or a relational account, where role information was encoded with particular push events. These studies found no interference between different roles, contrary to the predictions of the featural account. The foil was manipulated in these studies to increase the saliency of the second push and it was found that this changed the accuracy in describing the first push. The results suggest that language-related thematic role processing uses a relational representation that can encode multiple events.