Prediction at the intersection of sentence context and word form: Evidence from eye-movements in reading


Psychonomic Bulletin & Review


April, 2021


Simona Amenta, Jana Hasenäcker, Davide Crepaldi, & Marco Marelli (Simona Amenta and Jana Hasenäcker share first authorship, Davide Crepaldi and Marco Marelli share last authorship)

A key issue in language processing is how we recognize and understand words in sentences. Research on sentence reading indicates that the time we need to read a word depends on the amount of (un)expected information that it conveys. On the other side, research on single word recognition shows that each word also has its own recognition dynamics based on the relation between its orthographic form and its meaning. It is not clear, however, how these sentence-level and word-level dynamics interact. In the present study, we examine the joint impact of these sources of information on eye movements during sentence reading. We analyze existing eye tracking data (Frank, Fernandez Monsalve, Thompson, & Vigliocco, 2013) to investigate the interplay of sentence-level prediction (operationalized as Surprisal) and word Orthography- Semantics Consistency in activating word meaning. Results indicate that both Surprisal and Orthography- Semantics Consistency exert an influence on several eye-movement measures and interact in a non-linear way. Especially when sentence context is moderately surprising, word orthography becomes a precious source of additional information to activate word meaning. We discuss this in terms of an "informational sweet spot" that gives just the right amount of information to the reader's eye. 

Preprint, data and analysis script are available on OSF: