Research

My current research is focused on the following questions.

How does a word’s context influence how it is read?

It is well known that a word that is predictable from its context is – in some sense – easy to process:  A reader’s eyes spend relatively little time on a predictable word, and the word elicits a relatively small N400 response in ERP experiments.  But there are many unanswered questions.  What is the predictability effect an effect of?  Actual prediction of specific words?  Broad pre-activation of words that may be related to the context?  And what is it an effect on?  The difficulty of visual word recognition in general?  Some specific, early stages of word recognition?  A late process of ‘integration’?  I have tried to answer these questions using a range of methodologies.  Currently, we are using co-registration of eye movements and ERPs in an attempt to identify potential dissociations between the effects of predictability in the two paradigms.  This work is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS 1732008).

Staub, A., & Goddard, K. (2019).  The role of preview validity in predictability and frequency effects on eye movements in reading.  Journal of Experimental Psychology:  Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 45, 110-127

Frisson, S., Harvey, D. R., & Staub, A. (2017).  No prediction error cost in reading: Evidence from eye movements. Journal of Memory and Language, 95, 200-214.

Staub, A. (2015). The effect of lexical predictability on eye movements in reading: Critical review and theoretical interpretation. Language & Linguistics Compass, 9, 311-327.

Staub, A., Grant, M., Astheimer, L., & Cohen, A. (2015). The influence of cloze probability and item constraint on cloze task response time. Journal of Memory and Language, 82, 1-17.

How do speakers and comprehenders compute agreement?

Speakers often produce sentences like The key to the cabinets are on the table. Here the verb is plural, apparently agreeing with the wrong noun:  cabinets, rather than key.  Using response time paradigms and eyetracking, we have been exploring what underlies these errors.  We have advanced the idea that a number of superficially similar kinds of agreement errors actually have distinct causes.  We have also argued against the view that memory retrieval difficulty is what underlies these errors.

Hammerly, C., Staub, A., & Dillon, B. (2019).  The grammaticality asymmetry in agreement attraction reflects response bias: Experimental and modeling evidence. Cognitive Psychology, 110, 70-104.

Keung, L., & Staub, A. (2018).  Variable agreement with coordinate subjects is not a form of agreement attraction.  Journal of Memory and Language, 103, 1-18.

Dillon, B., Staub, A., Levy, J., & Clifton, C., Jr. (2017). Which noun phrases is this verb supposed to agree with? Object agreement in American English. Language93, 65-96.

How do readers comprehend complex sentence structures in real time?

Sentences like The man that the salesman ignored left the store are notoriously hard to understand.  There are many different accounts of why this might be the case, some emphasizing the role that memory plays in the course of sentence processing, and some emphasizing the role played by the comprehender’s expectations for how a sentence is likely to continue.  We have been using the fine details of readers’ eye movements to evaluate the predictions of these accounts.

Staub, A., Foppolo, F., Donati, C., & Cecchetto, C. (2018).  Relative clause avoidance:  Evidence for a structural parsing principle.  Journal of Memory and Language, 98, 26-44.

Staub, A., Dillon, B., and Clifton, C., Jr. (2017). The matrix verb as a source of comprehension difficulty in object relative sentences. Cognitive Science, 41, 1353-1376.