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0927_ev_f - 9.591 24.945 Individual differences in sentence...

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9.591 / 24.945 Individual differences in sentence comprehension. Working memory capacity and sentence comprehension. September 27, 2004 Ted Gibson & Ev Fedorenko Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences Department of Linguistics & Philosophy MIT
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To do today: Resources and individual differences in sentence comprehension: 1. Just & Carpenter (1992): The single resource (SR) hypothesis 2. Caplan & Waters (1999): The Separate Language Interpretation Resource (SLIR) hypothesis 3. Evidence relevant to each: group differences: high and low span group differences: brain damaged populations dual task performance 4. An orthogonal issue: representing resources independently of language representations (MacDonald & Christianson, 2001)
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Background: Working Memory Working Memory resources visuo-spatial information verbal information (Baddeley & Hitch, 1974; Baddeley, 1986; Vallar & Shallice, 1990; Hanley et al., 1991; Jonides et al., 1993; Shah & Miyake, 1996)
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Background: Working Memory Verbal Working Memory resources natural language comprehension verbally-mediated cognitive tasks (Caplan & Waters, 1999; cf. Just & Carpenter, 1992) Terminological note: Working memory = computational resources
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WM and sentence comprehension Research question: Does natural language processing rely on the same pool / overlapping pools of resources as other cognitive tasks? Alternatively, is there a specialized pool of resources solely dedicated to language processing?
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WM and sentence comprehension Just & Carpenter (1992) Single Resource (SR) theory: One generic pool of resources for all verbally-mediated tasks. Caplan & Waters (1999) Separate Language Interpretation Resource (SLIR) theory: At least two pools of resources for verbally-mediated tasks: (1) natural language processing; and (2) other non-linguistic verbally- mediated tasks.
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WM and sentence comprehension: Caplan & Waters (1999) C&W distinguish between interpretive (on-line) and post- interpretive (off-line) processes in sentence comprehension. Definition of interpretive processes: Automatic, first-pass language processing (“extraction of meaning from a linguistic signal”, p. 79). This includes using all sources of information. This process breaks down on nested examples: # The man that the woman that the child hugged kissed laughed.
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WM and sentence comprehension: Caplan & Waters (1999) Definition of post-interpretive processes: Controlled conscious processing of the propositional content of the sentence and using it to accomplish tasks, like reasoning, planning actions, storing information in long-term semantic memory, etc. E.g., Pick up four tomatoes, a pound of apricots, prune juice, shallots, six apples and a bag of carrots on the way home. The sentence above is easy to understand, but carrying out the request from memory might be hard. (But, of course, this has nothing to do with sentence comprehension abilities.)
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WM and sentence comprehension Traditional approaches used to investigate the question of WM resources used for natural language processing: Individual differences: - Participants are divided into two or more groups based on their performance on a verbal WM task and then tested on linguistic structures of various complexity.
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