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Supporting Material
Nappa, R. & Arnold, J.E. (2014). The road to understanding is paved with the speaker’s intentions: Cues to the speaker’s attention and intentions affect pronoun comprehension. Cognitive Psychology 70, 58-81. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2013.12.003

Click HERE for paper. This paper is archived here under Elsevier’s Green Open Access policy.

Scroll down for Videos depicting each condition.


A series of experiments explore the effects of attention-directing cues on pronoun resolution, contrasting four specific hypotheses about the interpretation of ambiguous pronouns he and she: 1) it is driven by grammatical/pragmatic rules, 2) it is primarily a function of social processing of the speaker’s intention to communicate, 3) it is modulated by the listener’s own egocentric attention, and 4) it is primarily a function of learned probabilistic cues to what a referential term will refer to. Experiment 1 demonstrates that pronoun interpretation is guided by the well-known N1 (first-mention) bias, which is also modulated by both the speaker’s gaze and pointing gestures. Experiment 2 demonstrates that a low-level visual capture cue has no effect on pronoun interpretation, in contrast with the social cue of pointing. Experiment 3 uses a novel intentional cue: the same attention-capture flash as in Experiment 2, but with instruction that the cue is intentionally created by the speaker. This cue does modulate the N1 bias, demonstrating the importance of information about the speaker’s intentions to pronoun resolution. Taken in sum, these findings demonstrate that pronoun resolution is a process best categorized as driven by an appreciation of the speaker’s communicative intent, but highly sensitive to predictive cues in the environment.

The following videos show an example of experimental stimuli in each condition. All videos contain the following spoken text:

“This story is about Panda Bear and Puppy. This is Panda Bear, and this is Puppy. Panda Bear is having some pizza with Puppy. He wants a pepperoni slice.

It is recommended that you first let each video load entirely before beginning to play it.

Experiment 1 videos

Condition A – Looking cue to N1 (first-mentioned character in preceding sentence)

Condition B – Neutral looking cue (to a central location)

Condition C – Looking cue to N2 (second-mentioned character in preceding sentence)

Condition D – Pointing and Looking cue to N1 (first-mentioned character in preceding sentence)

Condition E – Neutral pointing and looking cue (to a central location)

Condition F – Pointing and Looking cue to N2 (second-mentioned character in preceding sentence)

Experiment 2 video

Sample video with visual capture on N2

Experiment 3 video

Introduction video establishing the novel “intention capture” manipulation