Convergent probabilistic cues do not trigger syntactic adaptation: Evidence from self-paced reading

Jack Dempsey, Qiawen Liu, Kiel Christianson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous work has ostensibly shown that readers rapidly adapt to less predictable ambiguity resolutions after repeated exposure to unbalanced statistical input (e.g., a high number of reduced relative-clause garden-path sentences), and that these readers grow to disfavor the a priori more frequent (e.g. main verb) resolution after exposure (Fine, Jaeger, Farmer, & Qian, 2013). However, recent work has failed to replicate effects indicating a penalty for the a priori preferred, more frequent continuation, despite finding a speedup in syntactic repair times after initial exposure to the dispreferred, infrequent structure (Harrington Stack, James, & Watson, 2018). The current study reports three self-paced reading experiments that test whether co-occurring cues (explicit comprehension questions, preceding semantic cues, and font color) help facilitate adaptation to reduced relative/main verb garden-path sentences. Results suggest that readers do not overcome preexisting expectation biases by rapidly adapting to statistically novel linguistic contexts even with convergent probabilistic cues. An emphasis is placed on the difference between syntactic satiation effects and expectation adaptation, the latter of which we argue can only be determined through a penalty for an a priori preferred resolution after repeated exposure to its a priori less-preferred counterpart.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1906-1921
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Probabilistic cues
  • Satiation
  • Sentence processing
  • Syntactic adaptation
  • Syntactic parsing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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