Gradient acoustic information induces long-lasting referential uncertainty in short discourses

2017-05-16T08:59:24Z (GMT) by Sarah Brown-Schmidt Joseph C. Toscano
<p>Three experiments examined the influence of gradient acoustic information on referential interpretation during spoken language processing and how this influence persists over time. Acoustic continua varying between the pronouns “he” and “she” were created and validated in two offline experiments. A third experiment examined whether these acoustic differences influence online pronoun interpretation, and whether this influence persists across words in a discourse. Measures of eye gaze showed immediate sensitivity to graded acoustic information. Moreover, acoustically induced uncertainty persisted across a five-word delay: When listeners encountered a word that disambiguated the referent of the pronoun differently than it had originally been interpreted, the amount of time they took to recover from an initial misinterpretation was directly related to distance along the acoustic continuum between the pronoun and the endpoint corresponding to the correct referent. These findings show that fine-grained acoustic detail induces referential uncertainty that is maintained over extended periods of time.</p>