Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Interacts with Ambiguity During Sentence Comprehension

  • Sarah E. Key-DeLyriaEmail author
  • Todd Bodner
  • Lori J. P. Altmann


Conventional opinion about using Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) for examining sentence comprehension maintains that RSVP taxes working memory (WM), which probably affects sentence processing. However, most RSVP studies only infer the involvement of WM. Other cognitive resources, such as cognitive control or vocabulary may also impact sentence comprehension and interact with RSVP. Further, sentence ambiguity is predicted to interact with RSVP and cognitive resources to impact sentence comprehension. To test these relationships, participants read ambiguous and unambiguous sentences using RSVP and Whole-Sentence presentation, followed by comprehension questions that were targeted to the ambiguous region of the sentences. Presentation type and ambiguity interacted to affect RT such that the effect of RSVP was exaggerated for ambiguous sentences. RT effects were moderated by WM and vocabulary. WM and cognitive control affected accuracy. Findings are discussed in light of depth of processing and the impact of cognitive resources on sentence comprehension.


Rapid Serial Visual Presentation Sentence processing Shallow processing Working memory Executive function 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Speech and Hearing Sciences DepartmentPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing SciencesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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