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Influences on the magnitude of syntactic priming

We adapt our language to better match that of our conversation partner in many different settings. This thesis investigates certain conditions in which this adaptation effect is stronger (or weaker) and why. Evelien Heyselaar will defend her thesis on June 2nd, at 10:30am, at the Aula of the Radboud University, Nijmegen.
Influences on the magnitude of syntactic priming

Syntactic priming, the phenomenon in which we adapt our grammatical preferences to better match that of our conversation partner, is widely investigated. Most psycholinguistic experiments have used syntactic priming to assess syntactic processing, however, others have also looked into how it could reflect critical communicative, imitative, or social functions (Pickering & Garrod, 2004 for example). Within this domain, studies have suggested that we adapt our grammatical preferences depending on the opinion we have of the person we are speaking with. In her thesis, Heyselaar investigates the nature of this effect, and attempts to explain the phenomenon from a neurobiological perspective.

The thesis utilizes virtual reality, patient studies, dual-tasks, and EEG to show that syntactic priming as a function of the opinion we have of our conversation partner is most likely based on attention/distraction: the more we attend to our partner, the more we adapt to their grammatical preferences. The less we attend to our partner, the less we adapt to their grammatical preferences. Of course, personal opinion is not as simply defined as just whether someone is distracting or not, however, this thesis is therefore only a first step into determining the neurobiological basis of abstract concepts such as social preferences and how that influences language use.

 

Further information

  • Evelien Heyselaar will defend her thesis on Friday, June 2nd at 10.30am at the Aula of the Radboud University.
  • The thesis appears in the MPI Series in Psycholinguistics  (no. 124).
Neurobiology of Language

What is the neurobiological infrastructure for the uniquely human capacity for language? The focus of the Neurobiology of Language Department is on the study of language production, language comprehension, and language acquisition from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. Read more...

Director: Peter Hagoort

Secretary: Carolin Lorenz

 

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