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ERIC Number: EJ1056030
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 19
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Cross-Age Comparisons Reveal Multiple Strategies for Lexical Ambiguity Resolution during Natural Reading
Stites, Mallory C.; Federmeier, Kara D.; Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A. L.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v39 n6 p1823-1841 Nov 2013
Eye tracking was used to investigate how younger and older (60 or more years) adults use syntactic and semantic information to disambiguate noun/verb (NV) homographs (e.g., "park"). In event-related potential (ERP) work using the same materials, Lee and Federmeier (2009, 2011) found that young adults elicited a sustained frontal negativity to NV homographs when only syntactic cues were available (i.e., in syntactic prose); this effect was eliminated by semantic constraints. The negativity was only present in older adults with high verbal fluency. The current study shows parallel findings: Young adults exhibit inflated first fixation durations to NV homographs in syntactic prose, but not semantically congruent sentences. This effect is absent in older adults as a group. Verbal fluency modulates the effect in both age groups: High fluency is associated with larger first fixation effects in syntactic prose. Older, but not younger, adults also show significantly increased rereading of the NV homographs in syntactic prose. Verbal fluency modulates this effect as well: High fluency is associated with a reduced tendency to reread, regardless of age. This relationship suggests a trade-off between initial and downstream processing costs for ambiguity during natural reading. Together the eye-tracking and ERP data suggest that effortful meaning selection recruits mechanisms important for suppressing contextually inappropriate meanings, which also slow eye movements. Efficacy of frontotemporal circuitry, as captured by verbal fluency, predicts the success of engaging these mechanisms in both young and older adults. Failure to recruit these processes requires compensatory rereading or leads to comprehension failures (Lee & Federmeier, 2012).
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (DHHS); National Science Foundation
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois
Grant or Contract Numbers: T32-HD055272; AG026308; AG013935; DGE 11-44245 FLLW