Individual differences in processing temporarily ambiguous quantifiers
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In previous research, individual differences have been found in quantifier interpretation. When people are asked to complete sentences such as “Four flowers were put in the vase. Three…”, most people prefer a subset reading for the second sentence, i.e. a reading in which “three” refers to three of the four flowers that were mentioned previously. However, in studies on quantifier processing, only a subgroup of readers have shown effects that are associated with revision, when the quantifier of the second sentence in the sequence was not compatible with the preferred subset reading (i.e. larger than the first). This subgroup of readers was characterized by their performance on comprehension statements that followed the sentence sequences in the quantifier processing study: Poor comprehenders did show a revision effect, while Good comprehenders did not. We replicated a self-paced reading study of quantifier interpretation designed by Kaan, Alcocer, Barkley and Dallas (2007) and compared Poor and Good comprehenders on language and reading ability (as measured by the Shipley vocabulary task), working memory (as measured by an operation span and a reading span task) and attention (as measured by a situational motivation questionnaire). These measures were hypothesized to be factors in performance on the quantifier interpretation task by modulating reading comprehension and/or commitment to a particular reading of the sentence. Differences between Poor and Good comprehenders existed on tasks of working memory and language ability, but not on motivation. Unexpectedly, the best predictor of accuracy on the comprehension statements was the distracter task used in the operation span task. This distracter task involved the verification of simple math problems of the form “Is (8 : 2) – 3 = 1 ?”. However, performance on this equation verification task was not found to be related specifically to the interpretation of the quantities mentioned in the sentences, but was associated with general comprehension of the sentence sequences. This suggested that individual differences in quantifier interpretation were related to general cognitive capacities such as working memory and language skills.