Lexical and Message-Level Sentence Context Effects on Fixation Times in Reading

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Readers' eye movements were recorded as they read an unambiguous noun in a sentence context. In Experiment 1, fixation durations on a target noun were shorter when it was embedded in context containing a subject noun and a verb that were weakly related to the target than when either content word was replaced with a more neutral word. These results were not affected by changes in the syntactic relations between the content words. In Experiment 2, the semantic relations between the message-level representation of the sentence and the target word were altered whereas the lexical content was held constant. Fixation time on the target word was shorter when the context was semantically related to the target word than when it was unrelated. Intralexical priming effects between the subject noun and the verb were also observed. The results suggest that both lexical and message-level representations can influence the access of an individual lexical item in a sentence context.

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