Teasing apart retrieval and encoding interference in the processing of anaphors.

Abstract

Two classes of account have been proposed to explain the memory processes subserving the processing of reflexive-antecedent dependencies. Structure-based accounts assume that the retrieval of the antecedent is guided by syntactic tree-configurational information without considering other kinds of information such as gender marking in the case of English reflexives. By contrast, unconstrained cue-based retrieval assumes that all available information is used for retrieving the antecedent. Similarity-based interference effects from structurally illicit distractors which match a non-structural retrieval cue have been interpreted as evidence favoring the unconstrained cue-based retrieval account since cue-based retrieval interference from structurally illicit distractors is incompatible with the structure-based account. However, it has been argued that the observed effects do not necessarily reflect interference occurring at the moment of retrieval but might equally well be accounted for by interference occurring already at the stage of encoding or maintaining the antecedent in memory, in which case they cannot be taken as evidence against the structure-based account. We present three experiments (self-paced reading and eye-tracking) on German reflexives and Swedish reflexive and pronominal possessives in which we pit the predictions of encoding interference and cue-based retrieval interference against each other. We could not find any indication that encoding interference affects the processing ease of the reflexive-antecedent dependency formation. Thus, there is no evidence that encoding interference might be the explanation for the interference effects observed in previous work. We therefore conclude that invoking encoding interference may not be a plausible way to reconcile interference effects with a structure-based account of reflexive processing.

Publication
Frontiers in Psychology, 9.