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The time course of age-of-acquisition effects on eye movements during reading: Evidence from survival analyses

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Abstract

Adults process words that are rated as being learned earlier in life faster than words that are rated as being acquired later in life. This age-of-acquisition (AoA) effect has been observed in a variety of word-recognition tasks when word frequency is controlled. AoA has also previously been found to influence fixation durations when words are embedded into sentences and eye movements are recorded. However, the time course of AoA effects during reading has been inconsistent across studies. The current study further explored the time course of AoA effects on distributions of first-fixation durations during reading. Early and late acquired words were embedded into matched neutral sentence frames. Participants read the sentences while their eye movements were recorded. AoA effects were observed in both early and late fixation duration measures, suggesting that AoA has an early and long-lasting effect on word-recognition processes during reading. Survival analysis revealed that the earliest discernable effect of AoA on distributions of first-fixation durations emerged beginning at 158 ms. This rapid influence of AoA was confirmed through the use of Vincentile plots, which demonstrated that the effect of AoA occurred early and was relatively consistent across the distribution of fixations. This pattern of results provides support for the direct lexical-control hypothesis, as well as the viewpoint that AoA may exert an influence at multiple loci within the mental lexicon.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Brysbaert and Stevens (2018) have recently recommended that psycholinguistic experiments with repeated measures should ensure at least 1,600 observations per condition for adequate statistical power. With 50 items per AoA condition, a sample size of 32 participants would be required to achieve a potential maximum of 1,600 observations per condition. We have a larger sample size (47 participants), to allow for a potential maximum of 2,350 observations per AoA condition. Given the nature of eye-movement recording, both track losses and skipping of the target word reduce the number of usable observations (see the Data Analysis section). Thus, by using as sample size of 47 participants, we are able to ensure that there are a larger number of observations than the recommended 1,600 observations per condition.

  2. 2.

    In addition, to further explore the effect of AoA on distributions of fixations, we conducted a 2 × 10 repeated-measures ANOVA, with age of acquisition and Vincentile bin as within-subjects variables. We used the Greenhouse–Geisser epsilon correction for violation of sphericity. There was a main effect of AoA, F(1, 46) = 13.04, p < .01, and no interaction, F(1.86, 85.61) = 1.60, p = .209. The lack of an interaction suggests that AoA effects are relatively consistent in magnitude across the distribution. However, future work could further explore if the magnitude of AoA effects varies across the distribution by employing other distributional analysis techniques, such as ex-Gaussian fitting. In the present study, only 68% of participants (i.e., 32 out of 47) met the recommended minimum of 40 observations per condition to perform ex-Gaussian fitting using QMPE (Cousineau, Brown, & Heathcote, 2004; Heathcote, Brown, & Mewhort, 2002).

  3. 3.

    As recommend by Reingold and Sheridan (2018), we also analyzed our data set using the Original-DPA procedure (as an extra verification step), and this procedure yielded a divergence point at 167 ms. We are focusing on the CI-DPA procedure in the text because it provides confidence intervals that facilitate comparisons across data sets (for further discussion, see Reingold & Sheridan, 2014, 2018).

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Correspondence to Barbara J. Juhasz.

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Appendix

Appendix

Sentence frames for the early and late AoA items used in the eye-movement experiment. Early and late AoA target words were paired, and each had two sentence frames written that were the same through at least the posttarget word. Two experimental lists were prepared so that each participant read every target word in a different sentence frame. Target words are presented in bold in the sentences here, but were not bolded during the experiment.

Early acquired items—Sentence Frame #1

My mother said that even a little acorn will grow into a big oak tree.

I was hoping that the latest apology that the politician gave would be sincere.

You could barely see the hidden beetle beneath the bricks on the wall.

Jack headed to the nearest bench when he needed to take a long rest.

Jessica spotted the dark branch before she collided with it.

I admired the beautiful cartoon that covered up the graffiti on the wall.

Layla had to decide which choice would be best by the end of the day.

Clara thought that the only chore worth doing was cleaning her room.

Going to the noisy circus gave Lauren a severe headache for two days.

John enjoyed being in the large class surrounded by his many peers.

Marsha thought the old costume smelled like sweat from all the performances.

Martin grabbed the last crayon before anyone else could get it.

Chris decided to purchase the new cushion since the old one was all ripped.

Lucy aspired to become a successful dentist after finishing college.

Caroline had the best dessert with her pasta dinner tonight.

Jacqueline really hated the annoying freckle that she had on her nose.

Brian marveled at the baby giraffe slowly walking by at the zoo.

Bella felt that the climbing height was too much for her to continue the hike.

Adam avoided the dark insect crawling down the long hallway.

I rarely ever have juice because of the high amount of sugar in it.

I was glad to see that the updated kitchen included a new dishwasher.

The much needed lullaby helped the baby fall asleep much faster.

I found my grandmother's old mitten when I cleaned out her attic.

In the story, a hidden monster jumps out at the unsuspecting children.

Jennifer disliked the annoying noise coming from her headphones.

Michelle looked at the only noodle that was left floating in the soup.

Our goal is to support every parent when they need some help.

Stephanie interviewed a potential partner before hiring her.

He learned that Sarah prefers pasta over stir fry for dinner.

I was excited to go to the outdoor picnic where I would see all my friends.

Tracy was proud of the new prize given to her for her artwork.

At first I did not notice the massive puddle blocking my pathway.

This restaurant is famous for their delicious sauce served with all dishes.

Maria won a free shampoo from her hairdresser the last time she went.

The student looked at the detailed sheet that instructed him what to do.

The worker fixed the broken shelf carefully to avoid splinters.

Julia will go to the mall to buy a new skirt when she gets out of work.

Marcus sat on the large sleigh and took pictures with Santa.

I just saw a tiny snail that was sitting on a leaf in a bush.

Some people believe that spinach increases their physical abilities.

Mark dropped the large spoon down into the bottom of the pot.

Nancy was rewarded with a fancy sticker after enduring the dentist.

I tried to fix the defective strap that broke on my new purse.

Connor watched the new student complete the equation correctly.

You cannot substitute the plain syrup with any other flavor in the recipe.

Apparently, the most recent thunder was the loudest on record.

Julie misunderstood the simple truth involved in the decision process.

Kara thought that the yucky vitamin tasted awful so she spit it out.

The man towed his new wagon behind him as he headed to the store.

Jackson greatly preferred yogurt compared with any other foods.

Early acquired items—Sentence Frame #2

Maria put a little acorn into the pocket of her jeans to bring home.

Billy said that the real apology was going to be made in the press conference.

Tara saw the ugly beetle when she stepped outside of her dorm room.

Meet me at that bench near the park after you finish your run.

I was surprised when the small branch outside was infested with little bugs.

Wanda told me about the colorful cartoon she had drawn for art class.

Max accepted the difficult choice hoping he would learn more from it.

Therese told me that the last chore she did was washing the floor.

We went to the famous circus when it came to town last fall.

I went to an amazing class during my visit to the local college.

I packed up my mother's costume after the amazing Halloween party.

Peter got another crayon from the box to give to his sister.

I was happy that the expensive cushion was on sale for such a reasonable price.

Jennifer made a trip to see the local dentist when her teeth began to hurt.

Tina thought that the massive dessert tasted delicious after the small meal.

Jillian could see the large freckle just above her shirt collar.

I watched the mother giraffe feed her baby when I went to the zoo.

Barb thought that the incredible height would be too much for her mom to climb.

Chris thought that the large insect really was quite frightening to see.

The store did not carry the cheap juice that my children prefer to drink.

Jasmine thought that the old kitchen definitely needed repairs.

Sophia created a unique lullaby just for her youngest niece.

Miranda thought that the white mitten would get dirty much too quickly.

Miles thought that the dreadful monster would be great for the haunted house.

Tara thought that the unusual noise coming from her computer was strange.

Cathy accidentally dropped the last noodle onto the dirty kitchen floor.

There was a very helpful parent organizing the fundraiser for the school.

Catherine and her new partner worked extremely well together.

I've never met someone who enjoys pasta quite as much as Lilly.

Jenny thought that an indoor picnic would be great fun for her kids.

We developed a respected prize that was given out to an author every year.

Jack stood by the wide puddle trying to determine how to get around it.

I thought that the spicy sauce could have been much better.

Colin bought his wife an expensive shampoo from her favorite salon.

Billy went to get the updated sheet with the answers from his teacher.

Mike bought a small shelf yesterday to install in his new apartment.

Meghan thought that the purple skirt would look great with her shoes.

Josh decided to build a wooden sleigh for a Christmas decoration.

Tara drew a picture of a brown snail during her art class yesterday.

Micaela put some extra spinach into the yummy artichoke dip.

Kate brought her own spoon since she did not like using dirty utensils.

Julia carefully put her new sticker into the book she had purchased.

Paul thought that the broken strap could be fixed on his computer bag.

I welcomed the new student during her first class of the day.

I mistakenly used syrup instead of vanilla extract while baking a cake.

I could not believe that last night's thunder could be heard so far away.

I struggled to interpret the complex truth involved in the situation.

Becky took Bob's vitamin before she realized it was not hers.

Rob decided to build a large wagon during the year for his final course project.

Having a little yogurt occasionally for lunch is a nice treat to cheer me up.

Late acquired items—Sentence Frame #1

My mother said that even a little basil will add so much flavor to the dish.

I was hoping that the latest tragedy that I heard on the news would be the last.

You could barely see the hidden pimple beneath the makeup on her face.

Jack headed to the nearest clinic when he needed to see a doctor.

Jessica spotted the dark orchid before any of the bright flowers.

I admired the beautiful foliage that covered the forest on our hike.

Layla had to decide which career would be best for her future success.

Clara thought that the only stock worth buying was Amazon's.

Going to the noisy casino gave Lauren a severe headache for two days.

John enjoyed being in the large plaza surrounded by pigeons and other birds.

Marsha thought the old estate smelled like mold so she left very quickly.

Martin grabbed the last martini before he headed home from the party.

Chris decided to purchase the new granite since he was replacing his counter.

Lucy aspired to become a successful senator after finishing law school.

Caroline had the best avocado with her quesadilla at the restaurant.

Jacqueline really hated the annoying mascot that ran up and down the room.

Brian marveled at the baby gazelle slowly walking by at the zoo.

Bella felt that the climbing expert was a great help during the hike.

Adam avoided the dark saloon crawling with unsavory people.

I rarely ever have booze because of the poor effects it has on my health.

I was glad to see that the updated brewery included a new tasting room.

The much needed formula helped the baby fall asleep much faster.

I found my grandmother's old corset when I cleaned out her attic.

In the story, a hidden corpse jumps out at the unsuspecting children.

Jennifer disliked the annoying audio coming from her headphones.

Michelle looked at the only grenade that was left in the bunker

Our goal is to support every veteran when they need some help.

Stephanie interviewed a potential client before agreeing to work with him.

He learned that Sarah prefers disco over jazz for dancing.

I was excited to go to the outdoor arena where I would see my favorite team.

Tracy was proud of the new union given how hard it was to form.

At first I did not notice the massive podium blocking my view of the stage.

This restaurant is famous for their delicious sushi served with wasabi.

Maria won a free massage from the spa the last time she went.

The student looked at the detailed script that instructed him what to do.

The worker fixed the broken cable carefully to avoid cutting other wires.

Julia will go to the mall to buy a new shawl when she gets out of work.

Marcus sat on the large ledge and looked at the ground below.

I just saw a tiny gecko that was sitting on a leaf in a bush.

Some people believe that whiskey increases their physical abilities.

Mark dropped the large ladle down into the bottom of the pot.

Nancy was rewarded with a fancy diploma after finishing college.

I tried to fix the defective radar that I purchased for my boat.

Connor watched the new manager complete all her tasks efficiently.

You cannot substitute the plain vodka with a flavored one in the drink.

Apparently, the most recent lottery was the largest on record.

Julie misunderstood the simple system involved in making the program work.

Kara thought that the yucky alcohol tasted awful so she spit it out.

The man towed his new yacht behind his truck as he headed to the docks.

Jackson greatly preferred luxury compared with living life simply.

Late acquired items—Sentence Frame #2

Maria put a little basil into her famous lasagna as the secret ingredient.

Billy said that the real tragedy was that the children could not be reunited.

Tara saw the ugly pimple when she looked in the mirror this morning.

Meet me at that clinic near the mall when you get out of work.

I was surprised when the small orchid outside was infested with little bugs.

Wanda told me about the colorful foliage she had seen on her trip.

Max accepted the difficult career hoping he would make more money.

Therese told me that the last stock she bought was Microsoft's

We went to the famous casino when we took a trip to Las Vegas.

I went to an amazing plaza during my trip to the southeast of Italy.

I packed up my mother's estate after we had to move her to a nursing home.

Peter got another martini from the bartender for his friend.

I was happy that the expensive granite was on sale for such a reasonable price.

Jennifer made a trip to see the local senator when she was writing her article.

Tina thought that the massive avocado tasted like it was over ripe.

Jillian could see the large mascot just about to run around the stadium.

I watched the mother gazelle feed her baby when I went to the zoo.

Barb thought that the incredible expert would be able to help them decide.

Chris thought that the large saloon really was a fun tourist attraction.

The store did not carry the cheap booze that my friends wanted to buy.

Jasmine thought that the old brewery definitely needed a renovation.

Sophia created a unique formula just to accommodate for the new findings.

Miranda thought that the white corset would be perfect for her costume.

Miles thought that the dreadful corpse would be great for the haunted house.

Tara thought that the unusual audio coming from her computer was strange.

Cathy accidentally dropped the last grenade onto the pile of explosives.

There was a very helpful veteran organizing the information session.

Catherine and her new client worked extremely well together.

I've never met someone who enjoys disco quite as much as Lilly.

Jenny thought that an indoor arena would be a great place for the event.

We developed a respected union that fought hard for worker's rights.

Jack stood by the wide podium trying to remember the important speech.

I thought that the spicy sushi could have been much better.

Colin bought his wife an expensive massage from her favorite masseuse.

Billy went to get the updated script with the new lines he would have to learn.

Mike bought a small cable yesterday to connect his computer and monitor.

Meghan thought that the purple shawl would be perfect for her mom.

Josh decided to build a wooden ledge for the local skate park.

Tara drew a picture of a brown gecko during her art class yesterday.

Micaela put some extra whiskey into the drink for her husband.

Kate brought her own ladle since she was not sure if Larry had one.

Julia carefully put her new diploma into the frame she had purchased.

Paul thought that the broken radar could be fixed relatively easily.

I welcomed the new manager during our staff meeting this morning.

I mistakenly used vodka instead of rum in my mixed drink last night.

I could not believe that last night's lottery could be won by so many people.

I struggled to interpret the complex system involved in analyzing the data.

Becky took Bob's alcohol before he could take another drink.

Rob decided to build a large yacht during his retirement so he could live on it.

Having a little luxury occasionally is important to stay rejuvenated.

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Juhasz, B.J., Sheridan, H. The time course of age-of-acquisition effects on eye movements during reading: Evidence from survival analyses. Mem Cogn 48, 83–95 (2020). https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-019-00963-z

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Keywords

  • Age of acquisition
  • Fixation durations
  • Eye movements
  • Distributional analysis
  • Time course
  • Lexical processing
  • Reading