Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation




Experimental Psychology

First Advisor

Robin K Morris


The current study investigated the influence of informative context on the processes that underlie vocabulary acquisition in reading. The eye movements of adult skilled readers were monitored while they read sentences containing informative context followed by a known or novel target word. Both experiments provided new evidence of increased levels of target word and informative context rereading upon encounters with novel targets, compared to known targets, and its contributions to the acquisition process. In Experiment 1, informative context was manipulated in terms of the extent to which it constrained the intended meaning of the target word. Strongly constraining and moderately constraining context were associated with unique patterns of target word and informative context rereading, which suggested that they exerted differential influences on the acquisition process. In Experiment 2, the informative context was manipulated based on the claims of motor resonance theory. That is, proponents of motor resonance have suggested that high levels of motor-based action language facilitate lexical access and enhance language comprehension (e.g., Fischer & Zwaan, 2008). Therefore, informative context in the second experiment contained high or low levels of motorbased action content based on independent ratings of the specificity and physical intensity of the described actions. There was some evidence of an influence of motor-based action context on eye movement measures of initial processing and integration of the target word, which suggested that the acquisition process was affected. Finally, upon mapping posttest performance onto eye movement behavior, differences between contexts also emerged in both experiments in terms of the particular reading patterns that were associated with superior novel word retention.