Evidence against egocentric prediction during language comprehension
Although previous research has demonstrated that language comprehension can be egocentric, there is little evidence for egocentricity during prediction. In particular, comprehenders do not appear to predict egocentrically when the context makes it clear what the speaker is likely to refer to. But do comprehenders predict egocentrically when the context does not make it clear? We tested this hypothesis using a visual-world eye-tracking paradigm, in which participants heard sentences containing the gender-neutral pronoun They (e.g. They would like to wear…) while viewing four objects (e.g. tie, dress, drill, hairdryer). Two of these objects were plausible targets of the verb (tie and dress), and one was stereotypically compatible with the participant's gender (tie if the participant was male; dress if the participant was female). Participants rapidly fixated targets more than distractors, but there was no evidence that participants ever predicted egocentrically, fixating objects stereotypically compatible with their own gender. These findings suggest that participants do not fall back on their own egocentric perspective when predicting, even when they know that context does not make it clear what the speaker is likely to refer to.
Publication typeJournal article