The effect of prominence and cue association in retrieval processes: A computational account
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Description: We present a comprehensive empirical evaluation of the ACT-R-based model of sentence processing developed by Lewis & Vasishth (2005) (LV05). The predictions of the model are compared with the results of a recent meta-analysis of published reading studies on retrieval interference in reflexive-/reciprocal-antecedent and subject-verb dependencies (Jäger, Engelmann, & Vasishth, 2017). The comparison shows that the model has only partial success in explaining the data; and we propose that its prediction space is restricted by oversimplifying assumptions. We then implement a revised model that takes into account differences between individual experimental designs in terms of the prominence of the target and the distractor in memory and context-dependent cue-feature associations. The predictions of the original and the revised model are quantitatively compared with the results of the meta-analysis. Our simulations show that, compared to the original LV05 model, the revised model accounts for the data better. The results suggest that effects of prominence and variable cue-feature associations need to be considered in the interpretation of existing empirical results and in the design and planning of future experiments. With regard to retrieval interference in sentence processing and to the broader field of psycholinguistic studies, we conclude that well-specified models in tandem with high-powered experiments are needed in order to uncover the underlying cognitive processes.