Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Interacts with Ambiguity During Sentence Comprehension

Abstract

Conventional opinion about using Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) for examining sentence comprehension maintains that RSVP taxes working memory (WM), which probably affects sentence processing. However, most RSVP studies only infer the involvement of WM. Other cognitive resources, such as cognitive control or vocabulary may also impact sentence comprehension and interact with RSVP. Further, sentence ambiguity is predicted to interact with RSVP and cognitive resources to impact sentence comprehension. To test these relationships, participants read ambiguous and unambiguous sentences using RSVP and Whole-Sentence presentation, followed by comprehension questions that were targeted to the ambiguous region of the sentences. Presentation type and ambiguity interacted to affect RT such that the effect of RSVP was exaggerated for ambiguous sentences. RT effects were moderated by WM and vocabulary. WM and cognitive control affected accuracy. Findings are discussed in light of depth of processing and the impact of cognitive resources on sentence comprehension.

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Correspondence to Sarah E. Key-DeLyria.

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Appendix

Appendix

Sample Items from the Shipley Vocabulary Task

Instructions: In the test below, the first word in each item is printed in capital letters. Next are four other words. Circle the one word that means the same thing, or most nearly the same thing, as the word in all capital letters.

Example:

  LARGE Red Big Silent Wet
(1) TALK Draw Eat Speak Sleep
(17) NARRATE Yield Buy Associate Tell
(21) SQUANDER Tease Belittle Cut Waste
(29) AMULET Charm Orphan Dingo Pond

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Key-DeLyria, S.E., Bodner, T. & Altmann, L.J.P. Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Interacts with Ambiguity During Sentence Comprehension. J Psycholinguist Res 48, 665–682 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10936-018-09624-9

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Keywords

  • Rapid Serial Visual Presentation
  • Sentence processing
  • Shallow processing
  • Working memory
  • Executive function