Sentence comprehension in older adults: Evidence for risky processing strategies

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Abstract

Study Context: Previous research has suggested that older adults compensate for age-related declines in sentence comprehension ability by reading more slowly. The purpose of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that older adults adopt a riskier strategy than younger adults, in which they rely on expectations based on probabilistic cues.Methods: Older and younger adults read late closure sentences in a self-paced reading task (e.g., "When the waiter served the woman the food was still too hot."). The subordinate verbs varied in whether or not they occurred in ditransitive constructions (served vs. kissed).Results: Older adults showed less evidence of processing disruptions at the ambiguous noun phrase (the food) than younger adults. At the main verb, the older and younger adults showed evidence of processing disruption in the same conditions, but the processing disruptions were greater in older adults.Conclusion: The results are interpreted as support for the hypothesis that older adults adopt "risky" strategies during sentence comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-454
Number of pages19
JournalExperimental Aging Research
Volume40
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 8 2014

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Aging
  • Psychology(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)

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