The scalar approach to negative polarity item (NPI) licensing assumes that NPIs are allowable in contexts in which the introduction of the NPI leads to proposition strengthening (e.g., Kadmon & Landman 1993, Krifka 1995, Lahiri 1997, Chierchia 2006). A straightforward processing prediction from such a theory is that NPI’s facilitate inference verification from sets to subsets. Three experiments are reported that test this proposal. In each experiment, participants evaluated whether inferences from sets to subsets were valid. Crucially, we manipulated whether (...) the premises contained an NPI. In Experiment 1, participants completed a metalinguistic reasoning task, and Experiments 2 and 3 tested reading times using a self-paced reading task. Contrary to expectations, no facilitation was observed when the NPI was present in the premise compared to when it was absent. In fact, the NPI significantly slowed down reading times in the inference region. Our results therefore favor those scalar theories that predict that the NPI is costly to process (Chierchia 2006), or other, nonscalar theories (Giannakidou 1998, Ladusaw 1992, Postal 2005, Szabolcsi 2004) that likewise predict NPI processing cost but, unlike Chierchia (2006), expect the magnitude of the processing cost to vary with the actual pragmatics of the NPI. (shrink)
Structural priming is a useful tool for investigating linguistics representations. We argue that structural priming can be extended to the investigation of pragmatic representations such as Gricean enrichments. That is not to say priming is without its limitations, however. Interpreting a failure to observe priming may not be as simple as Branigan & Pickering imply.
In some practical uncertain situations decision makers are presented with described events that are out of sequence when having to make a causal attribution. A theoretical perspective concerning the causal coherence of the explanation is developed to predict the effect of this on causal attribution. Three experiments investigated the effect on causal judgement when the described order of events did not correspond to their causal order. Participants had to judge the relative probability of two possible causes of an outcome in (...) scenarios in which presentation order varied. All three experiments found that there was a preference to judge that the cause associated with events described in causal order was more responsible for the outcome when events associated with one cause were interleaved in their presentation order with those from a second cause. This occurred when there was a strong causal relationship between events. The results were consistent with the causal coherence explanation. (shrink)