Reading homophone puns: Evidence from eye tracking.
Canadian journal of experimental psychology = Revue canadienne de psychologie experimentale
URL with Digital Object Identifier
We investigated how readers make sense of homophone puns (e.g., The butcher was very glad we could meat up) by tracking their eye movements as they read. Comparison sentences included homophone-error sentences in which the presented homophone was also not correct (e.g., The lawyer was very glad we could meat up) and sentences in which the homophone was correct for the context (e.g., The butcher was very glad to chop meat up for the stew). An effect of the frequency of the unpresented homophone mate (e.g., meet) was found on first-pass reading times for homophones, indicating that participants activated the meaning of the homophone mate through shared phonology. First-fixation and gaze durations on the homophones were longer in puns than in correct-context sentences, indicating that participants immediately noticed that the homophone was incongruous with the adjacent context (e.g., glad we could meat) in puns, but total reading times did not differ, suggesting that the incongruity was quickly resolved. Immediate reading times on homophone in puns and homophone-error sentences did not differ, but total reading times did, suggesting that the impact of the critical context word (e.g., butcher) is delayed. Further analyses examined the resolution process in more detail. Ratings of the funniness of the puns were most strongly related to the strength of the association between the homophone and the critical context word (e.g., butcher).