Retrieval interference in sentence comprehension

Julie A. Van Dyke, Brian McElree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of interference effects in sentence processing has recently begun to receive attention, however whether these effects arise during encoding or retrieval remains unclear. This paper draws on basic memory research to help distinguish these explanations and reports data from an experiment that manipulates the possibility for retrieval interference while holding encoding conditions constant. We found clear support for the principle of cue-overload, wherein cues available at retrieval cannot uniquely distinguish among competitors, thus giving rise to interference effects. We discuss the data in relation to a cue-based parsing framework (Van Dyke & Lewis, 2003) and other interference effects observed in sentence processing (e.g., Gordon, Hendrick, & Johnson, 2001, 2004). We conclude from the available data that the memory system that subserves language comprehension operates according to similar principles as memory in other domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-166
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Cue-overload
  • Language comprehension
  • Memory
  • Parsing
  • Retrieval interference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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