Applied Psycholinguistics


The influence of contextual information on the resolution of ambiguous pronouns by younger and older adults

Carol L. Leonarda1 c1, Gloria S. Watersa1 c1 and David Caplana2 c1

a1 McGill University

a2 Massachusetts General Hospital


Two experiments were conducted with the purpose of investigating possible age effects on the abilities of older and younger adults to use contextual information to resolve ambiguous pronouns. In both experiments, subjects were presented with pairs of sentences (a leading sentence followed by a pronominal sentence) and were required to indicate the referent of the ambiguous pronoun. In both experiments, the older adults responded more slowly and were less accurate than the younger adults. However, both groups of subjects were equally influenced by the contextual information available, which was located in the leading sentence to aid in the resolution of the pronouns. Older adults did not demonstrate a specific impairment in the ability to use contextual information to resolve ambiguous pronouns. Nevertheless, agerelated difficulties in resolving pronouns may emerge, possibly as a function of an underspecified discourse model.


c1 Carol L. Leonard, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, 1266 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, Quebec H3G 1A8, Canada