Effects of Personal Characteristics on Language Processing: The Case of Political Ideology

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  • This thesis examines the effect of political ideology on language processing. While it is well established that the semantics of language have an effect on language users’ comprehension process, there is little research on the effect of personal characteristics, particularly political ideology, on language processing. This study investigated participants’ responses to sentences containing causality-biased verbs (for example, fear and frighten) in the cases of bias-congruent and -incongruent male and female pronouns through a self-paced reading experiment. The experiment measured whether participants’ response times to sentences containing congruent and incongruent male and female pronouns differed in relation to their scores on a conservative-to-liberal political ideology scale. It was hypothesized that more conservative individuals, typically having stronger reactions against novel ideas, would have a marked response to unexpected information in sentences. In other words, more conservative participants were expected to have a longer response time to sentences with bias-inconsistent pronouns than to those with bias-consistent pronouns. In this experiment, it was found that implicit causality congruence had an effect on reading time to the pronoun and following (spill-over) segments. While there was an interaction of implicit causality congruence and pronoun gender in the pronoun segment, in the spill-over segment, reading time depended on both the gender of the subject of the previous clause (NP1) and the participants’ political ideology: more conservative participants had more difficulty resolving the pronoun when it was incongruent with the implicit causality bias and when NP1 was female rather than male. The results suggest there is a relationship between political orientation and language processing. This study aims to contribute to a better understanding of how personal characteristics influence our mental representation of language.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International