Word-Monitoring Tasks Interact with Levels of Representation During Speech Comprehension

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Researchers frequently use data from monitoring tasks to argue that constraints on meaning facilitate lower-level processes. An alternate hypothesis is that the processing level that a monitoring task requires interacts with discourse-level processing. Subjects monitored spoken sentences for a synonym (semantic match), a nonsense word (phonological match), or a rhyme (phonologically and semantically constrained matching). The critical targets appeared at the beginning of the final clause in two-clause sentences that began with if, which signals a semantic analysis at the discourse level, or with though, which maintains a surface representation. Synonym-monitoring times were faster for if than for though, nonsense word-monitoring times were faster for though than for if, and rhyme-monitoring times did not differ for if and though. The results show that conjunctions influence how listeners allocate attention to semantic versus phonological information, implying that listeners form these kinds of information independently.



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