Subsequent to suppression: Downstream comprehension consequences of noun/verb ambiguity in natural reading

Mallory C. Stites, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used eye tracking to investigate the downstream processing consequences of encountering noun/verb (NV) homographs (i.e., park) in semantically neutral but syntactically constraining contexts. Target words were followed by a prepositional phrase containing a noun that was plausible for only 1 meaning of the homograph. Replicating previous work, we found increased first fixation durations on NV homographs compared with unambiguous words, which persisted into the next sentence region. At the downstream noun, we found plausibility effects following ambiguous words that were correlated with the size of a reader's first fixation effect, suggesting that this effect reflects the recruitment of processing resources necessary to suppress the homograph's context-inappropriate meaning. Using these same stimuli, Lee and Federmeier (2012) found a sustained frontal negativity to the NV homographs, and, on the downstream noun, found a plausibility effect that was also positively correlated with the size of a reader's ambiguity effect. Together, these findings suggest that when only syntactic constraints are available, meaning selection recruits inhibitory mechanisms that can be measured in both first fixation slowdown and event-related potential ambiguity effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1497-1515
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • ERPs
  • Eye tracking
  • Noun/verb homographs
  • Plausibility
  • Sentence processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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