Aging and Syntactic Representations: Evidence of Preserved Syntactic Priming and Lexical Boost

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Abstract

Young adults can be primed to reuse a syntactic structure across otherwise unrelated utterances but it is not known whether this phenomenon exists in older adults. In a dialogue task, young and older adults described transitive verb target pictures after hearing active or passive sentences. Both groups were more likely to produce a passive sentence following a passive prime than following an active prime (indicating syntactic priming), and this effect increased when the prime and target involved the same verb (indicating lexical boost). These effects were statistically equivalent in young and older adults, suggesting that the syntactic representations underlying sentence production are unaffected by normal aging.

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