We’ve got a new paper that just came out on line in JCL. Here’s the abstract, and a link to a read-only version of the full paper.
“This study explores whether children can learn a structural processing bias relevant to pronoun interpretation from brief training. Over 3 days, 42 5-year olds were exposed to narratives exhibiting a first-mentioned tendency. Two characters were introduced, and the first-mentioned was later described engaging in a solo activity. In our primary condition of interest, the Gesture Training condition, the solo-activity sentence contained an ambiguous pronoun, but co-speech gesture clarified the referent. There were two comparison conditions. In the Gender Training condition the characters were different genders, thereby avoiding ambiguity. In the Name Training condition, the first-mentioned name was simply repeated. Ambiguous pronoun interpretation was tested pre- and post-training. Children in the Gesture condition were significantly more likely to interpret ambiguous pronouns as the first-mentioned character after training. Results from the comparison conditions were ambiguous: there was a small but non-significant effect of training, but also no significant differences between conditions.”