Eye-tracking situated language comprehension: Immediate actor gaze versus recent action events


Visual-world eye-tracking findings suggest visual cues rapidly affect spoken sentence comprehension. When participants saw an actor perform an action and then listened to a related sentence (NP1-VERB-ADV-NP2), they preferentially inspected the “recent” over another “future” event target, and this even when future events were much more frequent. The current studies assessed to which extent this recent-event preference is modulated by another situation-immediate cue to the future event target (an actor’s gaze). Half of the sentences referenced a future event, and the experimenter performed one “recent” action before and one “future” action after the sentence. On 50% of the trials, he gazed at the future target object during the verb (Experiment 1) or at verb onset (Experiment 2). Results showed that gaze and future tense together cued attention to the future target; however gaze did not completely override the recent event preference.

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