By J. Mehler & T. G. Bever (Editors)
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Additional resources for Cognition, Vol. 1, No. 4
Examples of bias sentences classified as requiring a phrase-level analysis are: ‘The sailors liked to be in port at night’ paired with ‘the sailors liked the port in the evening’; ‘I hate relatives who visit often’ paired with the ambiguous sentence ‘visiting relatives can be a bore’. 33. 18. Though it might appear so from these figures, it cannot be concluded that wordlevel bias was more effective than phrase-level bias because the types of disambiguating contexts (word or phrase level) were not balanced across ambiguity types or sentences.
On the other hand, MacKay (1966) found significant differences between ambiguous sentences and their unambiguous control counterparts in a sentence completion task. In this task, s’s when presented with the initial fragment of a sentence were required to provide a grammatical and meaningful completion for it. Apparently, the subjects in this experiment were not aware that some of the fragments were ambiguous, but, nonetheless, showed slower completion times for the ambiguous fragments. Presumably this is the result of interference from the ‘unused’ meaning.
At the end of each experimental session subjects were asked whether they had noticed anything unusual about the material they were paraphrasing, and they were requested to describe as much as they could about the material in their unattended ear. None of the subjects had noticed that the material being paraphrased was often ambiguous. None of the subjects could report anything systematic about the material in the unattended ear. Several were unable to say more than that they thought it was speech; some said that there were words (in English), but most were unable to say whether there were sentences.