Repetition Blindness Interacts with Syntactic Grouping in Rapidly Presented Sentences

Lise Abrams, Jennifer R. Dyer, Donald G. MacKay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study tested for predicted effects of syntax on a repetition deficit (RD) known as repetition blindness, the reduced probability of recall for repeated words in rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) sentences The syntactic variable was phrase-congruent versus phrase-incongruent grouping within simultaneous RSVP displays With phrase-congruent grouping, each RSVP display contained a syntactic phrase (e g, “to play sports” in the sentence “They wanted to play sports but sports were not allowed”), whereas with phrase-incongruent grouping, RSVP displays contained nonphrases (e g, “sports but sports”) RD was extensive with phrase-incongruent grouping (29%), but nonsignificant (6%) with phrase-congruent grouping, as if phrase-congruent groups free up the extra processing time needed to connect repeated words into phrases in rapidly presented sentences, enabling top-down retrieval of the phrases during recall The present results comport with effects of syntax and prosody on auditory RD, and suggest that visual and auditory RD are identical underlying phenomena.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalPsychological Science
StatePublished - Mar 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology

Cite this