New article out in JML on eye-tracking and negation

Isabel Orenes, David Beltrán, and Carlos Santamaría have a new article out in the Journal of Memory and Language that reports eye-tracking data on the process by which people comprehend negated assertions.

Check out the abstract here:

This paper explores how negation (e.g., the figure is not red) is understood using the visual world paradigm. Our hypothesis is that people will switch to the alternative affirmative (e.g., a green figure) whenever possible, but will be able to maintain the negated argument (e.g., a non-red figure) when needed. To test this, we presented either a specific verbal context (binary: the figure could be red or green) or an unspecified verbal context (multary: the figure could be red or green or yellow or blue). Then, affirmative and negative sentences (e.g., the figure is (not) red) were heard while four figures were shown on the screen and eye movements were monitored. We found that people shifted their visual attention toward the alternative in the binary context, but focused on the negated argument in the multary context. Our findings corroborated our hypothesis and shed light on two issues that are currently under debate about how negation is represented and processed. Regarding representation, our results support the ideas that (1) the negative operator plays a role in the mental representation, and consequently a symbolic representation of negation is possible, and (2) it is not necessary to use a two-step process to represent and understand negation.