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Title:Effects of efficient fronto-temporal circuitry on lexical ambiguity resolution: converging evidence from cross-age comparisons in eye-tracking and ERP data
Author(s):Stites, Mallory
Advisor(s):Federmeier, Kara D.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Event-related potentials
Individual Differences
noun/verb (NV)
Abstract:Eye-tracking was used to examine how younger and older adults use syntactic and semantic information to disambiguate noun/verb (NV) homographs (e.g., park). We find that young adults exhibit inflated first fixations to NV-homographs when only syntactic cues are available for disambiguation (i.e., in syntactic prose). This effect is eliminated with the addition of disambiguating semantic information. Older adults (60+) as a group fail to show the first fixation effect in syntactic prose; they instead reread NV homographs longer. This pattern mirrors that in prior event-related potential work (Lee & Federmeier, 2009, 2011), which reported a sustained frontal negativity to NV-homographs in syntactic prose for young adults, which was eliminated by semantic constraints. The frontal negativity was not observed in older adults as a group, although older adults with high verbal fluency showed the young-like pattern. Analyses of individual differences in eye-tracking patterns revealed a similar effect of verbal fluency in both young and older adults: high verbal fluency groups of both ages show larger first fixation effects, while low verbal fluency groups show larger downstream costs (rereading and/or refixating NV homographs). Jointly, the eye-tracking and ERP data suggest that effortful meaning selection recruits frontal brain areas important for suppressing contextually inappropriate meanings, which also slows eye movements. Efficacy of fronto-temporal circuitry, as captured by verbal fluency, predicts the success of engaging these mechanisms in both young and older adults. Failure to recruit these processes requires compensatory rereading or leads to comprehension failures (Lee & Federmeier, in press).
Issue Date:2012-02-06
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:Copyright 2011 Mallory Stites
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-02-06
Date Deposited:2011-12

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