Is similarity-based interference caused by lossy compression or cue-based retrieval? A computational evaluation
The similarity-based interference paradigm has been widely used to investigate the factors subserving subject-verb agreement processing. A consistent finding is facilitatory interference effects in ungrammatical sentences but inconclusive results in grammatical sentences. Existing models propose that interference is caused either by misrepresentation of the input (representation distortion-based models) or by mis-retrieval of the interfering noun phrase based on cues at the verb (retrieval-based models). These models fail to fully capture the observed interference patterns in the experimental data. We implement two new models under the assumption that a comprehender utilizes a lossy memory representation of the intended message when processing subject-verb agreement dependencies. Our models outperform the existing cue-based retrieval model in capturing the observed patterns in the data for both grammatical and ungrammatical sentences. Lossy compression models under different constraints can be useful in understanding the role of representation distortion in sentence comprehension.