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Title:Ambiguity resolution of adults with low literacy
Author(s):Steen, Allison Ann
Advisor(s):Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A.
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Considerable evidence from lexical decision and speeded recognition paradigms has suggested that (a) even in sentence context, multiple meanings of ambiguous words (i.e., homographs) are activated, but quickly suppressed, and (b) college-aged readers with poorer comprehension skills and older adults take longer to suppress the inappropriate features to isolate the intended meaning. However, there has been no investigation as to whether the activation of such contextually inappropriate features influence language understanding during reading. In the present study, we investigated online processing of homographs among community-dwelling adults who were diverse in age, race, and literacy skill. Participants read 60 passages containing an ambiguous word while their eye movements were recorded. The first sentence was contextually biased toward the subordinate meaning of a homograph in which the sentence-final word was the homograph or an unambiguous control (e.g., At the beach, she played under the palm/tree). The following sentence contained a target word reflecting the dominant meaning of the homograph (e.g., hand). Fixation durations were shorter on the target when the word was ambiguous, suggesting that infelicitous activation of the homograph continued to affect comprehension. This effect was exaggerated among the oldest readers but only among those with intact literacy skills. Trial dwell time indicated that high-literacy adults were less affected by the ambiguity, but the low-literacy adults showed larger ambiguity effects that tended to get larger with age. Collectively, these results suggest that uncontrolled activation of word meanings can impact online comprehension among older adults.
Issue Date:2016-12-07
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Allison Steen
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-03-01
Date Deposited:2016-12

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