Presentation Title

Sentence comprehension of ambiguous sentences in younger and older adults

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Location

HUB 302-90

Type of Presentation

Poster

Abstract

Though the effects of aging on language production have been investigated extensively, less is known about how age-related changes in cognitive abilities affect language comprehension. To start answering this question, we examined age-related effects in processing syntactically ambiguous sentences, such as “Put the book on the table on the shelf” which could be temporarily (mis)interpreted as “put the book on the table and then put it on the shelf, while a correct interpretation would lead to the following reading: “Put the book that is on the table onto the shelf. We tested a group of 12 younger monolingual English speakers (age: 18-25), and 10 monolingual English older adults (65-85), during an on-line sentence comprehension task in which syntactically ambiguous and unambiguous sentences were presented auditorily. Participants listened to the stimuli and were subsequently asked to move corresponding objects on a computer screen according to their interpretation of the sentence using the mouse. Accuracy in moving the target object to the correct location and RTs were measured across conditions. We also collected a number of additional cognitive measures (including short-term memory –Operational Span-, inhibitory control –Flanker-) as measures that might explain variability in language comprehension performance. Preliminary results show that older adults are as accurate as younger adults in comprehension across conditions. We are currently finalizing the analysis for the RTs. We hypothesize that if older adults comprehension abilities change as a function of aging, we should observe a significant interaction between condition (ambiguous vs. non ambiguous), and group.

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Sentence comprehension of ambiguous sentences in younger and older adults

HUB 302-90

Though the effects of aging on language production have been investigated extensively, less is known about how age-related changes in cognitive abilities affect language comprehension. To start answering this question, we examined age-related effects in processing syntactically ambiguous sentences, such as “Put the book on the table on the shelf” which could be temporarily (mis)interpreted as “put the book on the table and then put it on the shelf, while a correct interpretation would lead to the following reading: “Put the book that is on the table onto the shelf. We tested a group of 12 younger monolingual English speakers (age: 18-25), and 10 monolingual English older adults (65-85), during an on-line sentence comprehension task in which syntactically ambiguous and unambiguous sentences were presented auditorily. Participants listened to the stimuli and were subsequently asked to move corresponding objects on a computer screen according to their interpretation of the sentence using the mouse. Accuracy in moving the target object to the correct location and RTs were measured across conditions. We also collected a number of additional cognitive measures (including short-term memory –Operational Span-, inhibitory control –Flanker-) as measures that might explain variability in language comprehension performance. Preliminary results show that older adults are as accurate as younger adults in comprehension across conditions. We are currently finalizing the analysis for the RTs. We hypothesize that if older adults comprehension abilities change as a function of aging, we should observe a significant interaction between condition (ambiguous vs. non ambiguous), and group.