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Information structure lecture series 2007 -

Abstract De Ruiter

In the human communication literature, there are conflicting findings about whether human communicators design their referring expressions
'egocentrically' (Keysar & colleagues) or that they do take into account the listeners perspective (Schegloff & Sacks' 'recipient design'). These contradictory findings can be reconciled by assuming that Recipient Design only activates under certain conditions. We therefore hypothesized that humans suffer from the "Illusion of Mutual Visibility" (IMV), which leads them to believe that when their interlocutor is co-present, and the object referred to is in the same room, that their interlocutor's field of vision is identical to their own. We used the Jast Construction Task platform (JCT) to test whether people do indeed suffer from this illusion, by manipulating the visibility of the pointing devices of both participants. We found strong evidence that speaker's referring behavior is guided by whether they themselves can see the listener's pointing device, instead of by whether the listener can actually see their own (the speaker's) pointing device. This provides strong evidence for the IMV.

Last checked 2010-10-05 by Christine Dimroth

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