The difficulty of coercion: A response to de Almeida

Martin J. Pickering, Brian McElree, Matthew J. Traxler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sentence The secretary began the memo requires specifying what event the secretary began, because the memo does not refer to an event. McElree, Traxler, Pickering, Seely, and Jackendoff (2001) and Traxler, Pickering, and McElree (2002) found evidence from both self-paced reading and eye-tracking that such sentences caused processing difficulty, and thus argued that people "coerced" the object to refer to an event (e.g., writing the memo). de Almeida (2004) reports two self-paced reading experiments that failed to replicate some aspects of previous studies, and thereby argued against coercion during comprehension. A new experiment demonstrates coercion costs using new items, and provides evidence of coercion cost with de Almeida's stimuli. We conclude that coercion does cause processing difficulty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBrain and Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2005


  • Coercion
  • Semantics
  • Sentence processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Speech and Hearing


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