Implicit Learning of Structure Occurs in Parallel with Lexically-mediated Syntactic Priming Effects in Sentence Comprehension
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The aim of this study was to determine whether cumulative structural priming effects and trial-to-trial lexically-mediated priming effects are produced by the same mechanism in comprehension. Participants took part in a five-session eye tracking study where they read reduced-relative prime-target pairs with the same initial verb. Half of the verbs in these sentences were repeated across the five sessions and half were novel to each session. Total fixation times on the syntactically challenging parts of prime sentences decreased across sessions, suggesting participants implicitly learned the structure. Additional priming was also observed at the critical regions of the target sentences, and the magnitude of this effect did not change over the five sessions. These finding suggests long-lived adaptation to structure and short-lived lexically-mediated priming effects are caused by separate mechanisms in comprehension. A dual mechanism account of syntactic priming effects can best reconcile these results.