The Realization of Scalar Inferences: Context Sensitivity without Processing Cost

Stephen James Politzer-Ahles, Robert Fiorentino

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Scalar inference is the phenomenon whereby the use of a less informative term (e.g., some of) is inferred to mean the negation of a more informative term (e.g., to mean not all of). Default processing accounts assume that the interpretation of some of as meaning not all of is realized easily and automatically (regardless of context), whereas context-driven processing accounts assume that it is realized effortfully and only in certain contexts. In the present study, participants' self-paced reading times were recorded as they read vignettes in which the context did or did not bias the participants to make a scalar inference (to interpret some of as meaning not all of). The reading times suggested that the realization of the inference was influenced by the context, but did not provide evidence for processing cost at the time the inference is realized, contrary to the predictions of context-driven processing accounts. The results raise the question of why inferencing occurs only in certain contexts if it does not involve extra processing effort.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere63943
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 16 May 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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