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On doing two things at once: temporal constraints on actions in language comprehension. In two experiments, we investigated how text comprehension is influenced by the interaction between the properties of actions and the temporal relations specified by adverbs. Participants read short narratives describing a protagonist who performed two actions that involved similar sensorimotor systems (e.g., chopping wood and painting a fence) or different ones (e.g., whistling a melody and painting a fence). The actions were described as simultaneous or successive by means of the temporal adverbs while and after, respectively. Comprehension, both in Spanish and in English, was markedly impaired (longer reading times and lower subjective coherence) for sentences including the adverb while and actions involving the same sensorimotor system. However, when one of the same sensorimotor system actions was described as a mental plan (e.g., chopping wood and thinking of painting a fence), comprehension was equally easy with the adverbs while and after. These results are compatible with a revised version of the indexical hypothesis that specifies how comprehension is guided by syntax and embodied constraints within multiple noninteracting mental spaces. mc
Rapid adaptation to foreign-accented English. This study explored the perceptual benefits of brief exposure to non-native speech. Native English listeners were exposed to English sentences produced by non-native speakers. Perceptual processing speed was tracked by measuring reaction times to visual probe words following each sentence. Three experiments using Spanish- and Chinese-accented speech indicate that processing speed is initially slower for accented speech than for native speech but that this deficit diminishes within one minute of exposure. Control conditions rule out explanations for the adaptation effect based on practice with the task and general strategies for dealing with difficult speech. Further results suggest that adaptation can occur within as few as two to four sentence-length utterances. The findings emphasize the flexibility of human speech processing and require models of spoken word recognition that can rapidly accommodate significant acoustic-phonetic deviations from native language speech patterns. jasa