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Top Cogn Sci. 2013 Jul;5(3):475-94. doi: 10.1111/tops.12025. Epub 2013 May 16.

Uncertainty reduction as a measure of cognitive load in sentence comprehension.

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Department of Cognitive, Perceptual, and Brain Sciences, University College London, UK.


The entropy-reduction hypothesis claims that the cognitive processing difficulty on a word in sentence context is determined by the word's effect on the uncertainty about the sentence. Here, this hypothesis is tested more thoroughly than has been done before, using a recurrent neural network for estimating entropy and self-paced reading for obtaining measures of cognitive processing load. Results show a positive relation between reading time on a word and the reduction in entropy due to processing that word, supporting the entropy-reduction hypothesis. Although this effect is independent from the effect of word surprisal, we find no evidence that these two measures correspond to cognitively distinct processes.


Cognitive load; Entropy reduction; Recurrent neural network; Self-paced reading; Sentence comprehension; Surprisal; Word information

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