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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Source-Goal Asymmetry in Motion Events: Sources Are Robustly Encoded in Memory but Overlooked at Test


Previous research demonstrated an asymmetry between Sources and Goals in people’s linguistic and non-linguistic encoding of motion events: when describing events such as a fairy going from a tree to a flower, people mention the Goal (“to a flower”) more often than the Source (“from a tree”) and are better at detecting Goal changes in a Same-different memory test. Many take these findings as evidence for a homology between linguistic and conceptual representations: an unmentioned event component is also conceptually less robust. Here, we show that the nonlinguistic Source-Goal asymmetry disappears when memory is probed with a Forced-choice task instead of a Same-different task. We argue that, despite frequent absence from linguistic descriptions, Sources are robust in event memory, but not attended to during Same-different tests due to people’s task-relevance assumption. This result bears on the nature of the Source-Goal asymmetry and calls for a finer-grained account for language-cognition homology.

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