Effects of Event Knowledge in Processing Verbal Arguments
Journal of Memory and Language
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This research tests whether comprehenders use their knowledge of typical events in real time to process verbal arguments. In self-paced reading and event-related brain potential (ERP) experiments, we used materials in which the likelihood of a specific patient noun (brakes or spelling) depended on the combination of an agent and verb (mechanic checked vs. journalist checked). Reading times were shorter at the word directly following the patient for the congruent than the incongruent items. Differential N400s were found earlier, immediately at the patient. Norming studies ruled out any account of these results based on direct relations between the agent and patient. Thus, comprehenders dynamically combine information about real-world events based on intrasentential agents and verbs, and this combination then rapidly influences online sentence interpretation.