Why do we sometimes choose to use a name, other times a pronoun, and yet other times a category term?
Is the man in the picture “Barack”, “him”, “the president”, or “the former senator of Illinois”?
Our research suggests that when people process referential expressions they show a balance between the processing cost of these expressions and the discourse function they serve. The processing cost of referential expressions is related, among other things, to memory interference. Pronouns minimize this interference and in our view are the solution language”invented” to reduce the cost of reference.
We are using reading measures, eye tracking, memory tasks, and neuroimaging to study referential processing in a number of different languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Chinese, and Japanese.
Attention and Language:
Why does language interfere with visual and motor processes? We are currently conducting a series of studies investigating the nature of the distribution of attention in multi-tasking scenarios with a focus on resource allocation during natural conversation. We have used a number of methodologies to study this relationship, including smooth pursuit tasks, flanker tasks, and driving simulations.
In addition to our line of research looking at conversation and attention, we are also interested in understanding spatial attention and its relationship with aural and visual language.
Language and memory in aging and dementia:
How are language and memory related? To answer this question we are looking at the language and memory changes in healthy aging, and in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Huntington’s Disease.