Together with Monique Flecken (University of Amsterdam), department member Sebastian Sauppe published a new open access paper in Cognition entitled „Speaking for seeing: Sentence structure guides visual event apprehension“. Sauppe and Flecken report an eye tracking study that shows that recent linguistic experience has an influence on how we process events under time pressure. They asked speakers of Dutch to describe event pictures (e.g., of a woman kissing a man) with either active or passive sentences („The woman kisses the man“ vs. „The man is kissed by the woman“). These sentences differ in whether they foreground the agent („the woman“) or the patient („the man“) of the event. Sauppe and Flecken then presented the Dutch speakers with pictures of unrelated events (e.g., someone peeling an orange) for only the blink of an eye (300 ms). This brief presentation time allowed for only one single look into this picture. It was found that whether this look into the briefly exposed picture falls on the agent („woman“) or the patient („orange“) is influenced by whether speakers had produced an agent-foregrounding active sentence or a patient-foregrounding passive sentence before. This shows that the rapid apprehension of events, the first steps in understanding what is going on in a picture, can be guided by our conceptual system and by our immediate language use.
Link to the publication: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104516