Retracing the garden-path: Nonselective rereading and no reanalysis

Kiel Christianson, Jack Dempsey, Anna Tsiola, Sarah Elizabeth M. Deshaies, Nayoung Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When people read temporarily ambiguous (“garden-path”) sentences, the forward movement of their eyes is often interrupted by regressions. These regressions are usually followed by rereading some portion of the previously read text. Frazier and Rayner (1982) proposed the Selective Reanalysis Hypothesis (SRH), which proposed that readers regress to critical choice points in the syntactic phrase marker of garden-paths where misparses had occurred, and furthermore, then reanalyzed the syntactic structure to arrive at a correct parse in most cases. A considerable amount of more recent work, however, suggests that readers often do not derive a correct parse or interpretation from such sentences. If these more recent observations are accurate, perhaps rereading is not necessarily strategic, controlled, or predictable. The current study consists of two large-scale eye-tracking experiments designed specifically to examine where and how much people reread garden-path sentences, and whether rereading influences comprehension accuracy. A variable text-masking paradigm was employed to restrict access to portions of garden-paths and non-garden-paths during rereading. Scanpath analyses were used to determine whether some or all participants targeted syntactically critical parts of previously read text. Comprehension questions probed final interpretations. In short, readers often misinterpreted the garden-paths, and no rereading measures predicted better comprehension. Furthermore, scanpath analyses revealed considerable variation across and within readers; only small percentages of trials conformed to structurally-based predictions. Taken together, we fail to find support for structurally strategic rereading. We therefore propose that rereading of these sentences is more often “confirmatory” than “revisionary” in nature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104515
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Aug 2024


  • Eye Movements
  • Good-Enough Processing
  • Language Comprehension
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Reading

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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