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Developmental Differences in the Ability to Inhibit the Initial Misinterpretation of Garden Path Passages

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The Hamm and Hasher (1992) procedure was used to examine whether children abandon their initial misinterpretation of garden path passages. Children (mean ages: 9 years-2 months and 12 years-4 months) and young adults (22 years-11 months) listened to either expected or unexpected (garden path) versions of passages that differed in the degree to which they provided contextual support for the final, correct interpretation. The first half of garden path passages initially led the listener to generate an incorrect interpretation. The second half of the passage provided information that clearly supported the correct inference and required the abandonment of the previous misinterpretation. Correct target inferences were formed and were equally available to all age groups. However, both groups of children were more likely than adults to accept competing inferences as being consistent with their understanding at the conclusion of garden path passages. The results suggest that developmental differences exist in the ability to inhibit thoughts that are no longer relevant in a listening comprehension and memory task.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Nebraska at Omaha

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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