Semantic prediction facilitates lexical access, but it is unclear how this prediction influences bottom-up lexical competition processes. We asked whether bottom-up competition is influenced by semantic prediction strategies during children’s sentence processing. We investigated whether semantic prediction would differentially impact this bottom-up process across a range of ages (5-10 years). Sentence stimuli were constructed in pairs with a predictive or neutral verb (e.g., The brother draws/gets the small picture). Children’s eye movements were recorded while viewing four images: target object (picture), cohort (pickle), and two unrelated (cookies, costume).

Prediction was seen across all ages, but there are age differences in cohort activation. Older children utilize the semantic prediction to bypass bottom-up competition, while younger children show increased looks to cohort after the predictive verb, but before the target word, suggesting cohort competition from pre-activation of target. These results illustrate the interplay between top-down and bottom-up processes during children’s sentence comprehension.