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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2013 May;39(3):890-7. doi: 10.1037/a0029181. Epub 2012 Jun 25.

Persistent structural priming and frequency effects during comprehension.

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Department of Psychology, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, United Kingdom.


We report 2 experiments using a sentence-picture matching task concerned with the interpretation of prepositional phrases that were ambiguous between high and low attachment (Branigan, Pickering, & McLean, 2005). After reading a prime sentence with a particular interpretation, participants tended to interpret an ambiguous prepositional phrase in a target sentence in the same way, whether the prime and target sentences used the same verb (Experiment 1) or used different verbs (Experiment 2). Both experiments also found that these effects were unaffected by whether prime and target sentences were adjacent or separated by 1 or 2 "fillers" consisting of sentences and pictures unrelated to the prime and target. We argue that both lexically independent and lexically specific structural priming effects occur in comprehension, and may persist, and suggest that a common mechanism may underlie structural priming effects and at least some lexically specific and lexically independent frequency effects in comprehension.

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