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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2010 Mar;36(2):423-40. doi: 10.1037/a0018619.

On the flexibility of grammatical advance planning during sentence production: Effects of cognitive load on multiple lexical access.

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Department of Psychology, University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany.


Three picture-word interference experiments addressed the question of whether the scope of grammatical advance planning in sentence production corresponds to some fixed unit or rather is flexible. Subjects produced sentences of different formats under varying amounts of cognitive load. When speakers described 2-object displays with simple sentences of the form "the frog is next to the mug," the 2 nouns were found to be lexically-semantically activated to similar degrees at speech onset, as indexed by similarly sized interference effects from semantic distractors related to either the first or the second noun. When speakers used more complex sentences (including prenominal color adjectives; e.g., "the blue frog is next to the blue mug") much larger interference effects were observed for the first than the second noun, suggesting that the second noun was lexically-semantically activated before speech onset on only a subset of trials. With increased cognitive load, introduced by an additional conceptual decision task and variable utterance formats, the interference effect for the first noun was increased and the interference effect for second noun disappeared, suggesting that the scope of advance planning had been narrowed. By contrast, if cognitive load was induced by a secondary working memory task to be performed during speech planning, the interference effect for both nouns was increased, suggesting that the scope of advance planning had not been affected. In all, the data suggest that the scope of advance planning during grammatical encoding in sentence production is flexible, rather than structurally fixed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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