This line of work builds on my dissertation research, conducted under the tutelage of Richard L. Lewis and Charles Perfetti.  The best introduction to the theory is Lewis, Vasishth & Van Dyke, 2006 (publisher | pubmed).  My dissertation provided the empirical foundation for distinguishing retrieval interference from storage effects, and demonstrating syntactic and semantic retrieval interference.  The primary insight of this work is to provide a processing architecture for constructing linguistic dependencies wherein memory capacity is irrelevant.  We show that language processing can occur with a severely limited active memory, consisting of only what is in the focus of attention, paired with an extremely fast, content-addressable retrieval system.  With this architecture, comprehension fails when retrieval cues are indeterminate,  leading to retrieval interference.  

fMRI data for retrieval interference

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EEG data for retrieval interference

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Evidence suggests that, for skilled readers, both syntactic and semantic interference is associated with activation in Left Inferior Frontal Gyrus, regions associated with cognitive control.  Semantic interference has been uniquely associated with subregions of LIFG associated with controlled retrieval of semantic information.  Oscillatory EEG analyses suggest that semantic interference is easier for skilled readers to diagnose and resolve than syntactic interference.  We are currently investigating the neural basis of these effects in less skilled readers.

Current Collaborators

Representative Publications

Jäger, L. A., Mertzen, D., Van Dyke, J. A.,& Vasishth, S. (2019, April 10). Interference patterns in subject-verb agreement and reflexives revisited: A large-sample study. [osf]

Glaser, Y.G., Martin, R.C., Van Dyke, J.A.,Hamilton, A.C., Tan, Y. (2013).  Neural basis of semantic and syntactic interference resolution in sentence comprehension. Brain and Language, 126, 314-326.  [publisher | pubmed]

Van Dyke, J.A.(2007). Interference effects from grammatically unavailable constituents during sentence processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 33(2), 407-430. [publisher | pubmed]


Lewis, R.L., Vasishth, S., Van Dyke, J.A.(2006). Computational Principles of Working Memory in Sentence Comprehension. Trends in Cognitive Science, 10(10), 447-454. [publisher | pubmed]


Van Dyke, J.A.& McElree, B. (2006). Retrieval interference in sentence processing. Journal of Memory and Language, 55, 157-166. [publisher | pubmed]

Van Dyke, J. A., & Lewis, R. L. (2003). Distinguishing effects of structure and decay on attachment and repair: A cue-based parsing account of recovery from misanalyzed ambiguities. Journal of Memory and Language, 49(3), 285-316.  [publisher]