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Comparing predictors of sentence self-paced reading times: Syntactic complexity versus transitional probability metrics

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Kapteijns,  Bob
Psychology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Hintz,  Florian
Psychology of Language Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Kapteijns, B., & Hintz, F. (2021). Comparing predictors of sentence self-paced reading times: Syntactic complexity versus transitional probability metrics. PsyArXiv, 10.31234/osf.io/b6j29. doi:10.31234/osf.io/b6j29.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0008-1868-9
Abstract
When estimating the influence of sentence complexity on reading, researchers typically opt for one of two main approaches: Measuring syntactic complexity (SC) or transitional probability (TP). Comparisons of the predictive power of both approaches have yielded mixed results. To address this inconsistency, we conducted a self-paced reading experiment. Participants read sentences of varying syntactic complexity. From two alternatives, we selected the set of SC and TP measures, respectively, that provided the best fit to the self-paced reading data. We then compared the contributions of the SC and TP measures to reading times when entered into the same model. Our results showed that both measures explained significant portions of variance in self-paced reading times. Thus, researchers aiming to measure sentence complexity should take both SC and TP into account. All of the analyses were conducted with and without control variables known to influence reading times (word/sentence length, word frequency and word position) to showcase how the effects of SC and TP change in the presence of the control variables.