Lago et al. on pronoun resolution and N400s
Now in Language Cognition & Neuroscience from 2014 alum Sol Lago, Antecedent access mechanisms in pronoun processing: Evidence from the N400, joint work with former advisor Ellen Lau, lab manager Anna Namyst, and Potsdam colleague Lena Jäger. The paper asks whether, in processing a phrase like "his castle" or "his estate", N400 responses at the noun ("castle" or "estate") are modulated by whether the noun in the antecedent to the possessive pronoun ("his") is or is not conceptually related (as "prince" is to "castle" but not "estate"). It reports two studies which show no strong evidence for semantic facilitation via coreference, casting doubt on earlier studies which suggested that such facilitation should be found. In response the authors argue that previously reported priming effects may have resulted from task-related strategies involving prediction of upcoming inputs, on the basis of prior context, rather than from automatic spreading activation mediated by resolution of the pronoun.