Processing definitional and stereotypical gender in reference resolution: Evidence from eye-movements

Hamutal Kreiner, P. Sturt, S. Garrod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Readers immediately slow down when all anaphor (e.g. herself) refers to an antecedent that mismatches in stereotypical gender (e.g. minister). The mismatch-cost has been attributed to a clash between the gender of the pronoun and the gender associated with the stereotypical role noun. However, the nature of such stereotypical gender is still controversial; according to the mental models approach it is inferred from world knowledge, while according to a lexical view it is stored as part of the lexical representation. We report two eye-tracking experiments designed to investigate the processing of stereotypical gender. In these experiments stereotypical nouns (e.g. minister) are contrasted with definitional nouns (e.g. king) in which gender information is part of the definition of the word. Experiment 1 shows that in anaphora sentences, where the role noun is presented earlier than the reflexive that conveys gender information, stereotypical and definitional gender nouns lead to a similar mismatch-cost. Experiment 2 shows that in cataphora sentences, where the reflexive precedes the stereotypical noun, a mismatch-cost is exhibited only for definitional gender nouns. These results indicate that stereotypical gender can be overridden when gender is specified by prior discourse, unlike lexically defined gender. We discuss the differences between these noun types and their implications for the representation and processing of stereotypical gender. (C) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-261
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number2
Early online date25 Oct 2007
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • inference


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