How WM Load Influences Linguistic Processing in Adults: A Computational Model of Pronoun Interpretation in Discourse

Topics in Cognitive Science 5 (3):564-580 (2013)
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Abstract

This paper presents a study of the effect of working memory load on the interpretation of pronouns in different discourse contexts: stories with and without a topic shift. We discuss a computational model (in ACT‐R, Anderson, 2007) to explain how referring expressions are acquired and used. On the basis of simulations of this model, it is predicted that WM constraints only affect adults' pronoun resolution in stories with a topic shift, but not in stories without a topic shift. This latter prediction was tested in an experiment. The results of this experiment confirm that WM load reduces adults' sensitivity to discourse cues signaling a topic shift, thus influencing their interpretation of subsequent pronouns.

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