To understand language people form mental representations of described situations. Linguistic cues are known to influence these representations. In the present study, participants were asked to verify whether the object presented in a picture was mentioned in the preceding words. Crucially, the picture either showed an intact original state or a modified state of an object. Our results showed that the end state of the target object influenced verification responses. When no linguistic context was provided, participants responded faster to the original state of the object compared to the changed state (Experiment 1). However, when linguistic context was provided, participants responded faster to the modified state when it matched, rather than mismatched, the expected outcome of the described event (Experiment 2 and Experiment 3). Interestingly, as for the original state, the match/mismatch effects were only revealed after reading the past tense (Experiment 2) sentences but not the future-tense sentences (Experiment 3). Our findings highlight the need to take account of the dynamics of event representation in language comprehension that captures the interplay between general semantic knowledge about objects and the episodic knowledge introduced by the sentential context.

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Keywords Language comprehension, Mental representation, Object state, Picture verification, Tense
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Journal Memory and Cognition
Kang, X. (Xin), Eerland, A, Joergensen, G.H. (Gitte H.), Zwaan, R.A, & Altmann, G.T.M. (Gerry T. M.). (2019). The influence of state change on object representations in language comprehension. Memory and Cognition. doi:10.3758/s13421-019-00977-7