TEMPoral Organisation of Speech (TEMPOS)

How is it possible that we can have a proper conversation with someone even if that someone is talking very fast, has a strange accent, produces uhm’s all the time, or has to shout over several other talkers in a noisy café?

Having a simple conversation often seems rather easy, yet Google, Siri, and Alexa still haven’t quite mastered it. Somehow, our brain is uniquely equipped to successfully perceive the speech of those around us – even in quite challenging listening environments. In this research group, we investigate the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie the exceptional human behavior of spoken communication.

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Juggling Act: Speaking and Listening in Conversation


Ruth Corps (Cluster leader)
Antje Meyer
Candice Frances
Elli Tourtouri
Constantijn van der Burght
Caitlin Decuyper (PhD student)
Jieying He (PhD student)
Cecilia Husta (PhD student)
Christina Papoutsi (PhD student)
Franziska Schulz (PhD student)
Veerle Wilms (PhD student)
Yuxi Zhou (PhD student)


Research and big questions:

Having a conversation seems easy, but it involves juggling speaking to your partner and listening to their response. In this cluster, we investigate how people manage the processes of speaking and listening in conversation. Our aim is to develop a comprehensive model of language in conversation that starts from the speakers' skills set and conversational goals, and explains the listening and speech planning strategies they use to achieve these goals. We aim to move beyond research conducted in the laboratory, and understand language as it is used in real, spontaneous conversation.

To achieve our aim, we are looking for answers to the following questions:

  • How are the processes of speaking and listening related to each other, and how do they differ?
  • What is the role of attention in speaking and listening?
  • Can interlocutors put the process of speaking "on hold" to prioritise listening (and vice versa)?
  • How do people affect each other in conversation?
  • In what ways does speaking and listening in conversation differ from speaking and listening in highly constrained laboratory tasks?


How do we conduct our research?

We combine corpus analyses, experimental work, such as picture naming, picture description, and word production tasks, and neuroimaging methods, such as EEG. This work allows us to consider the limitations set by the speaker's cognitive systems, the consequences of using different strategies for the quality of understanding and producing utterances, and the ways interlocutors affect each other in the interaction.



Stavroula Alexandropoulou
Eva Belke
Angela de Bruin
Marc Brysbaert
Matthew Crocker
Francesca Delogu
Jon Andoni Duñabeitia
Clara Ekerdt
Stefan Frank
Lauren Hadley
Gesa Hartwigsen
Judith Holler
Iva Ivanova
Clara Martin
Vitoria Piai
Martin Pickering
Greg Scontras
Emiliano Zaccarella

Former members:

Federica Bartolozzi
Laurel Ellen Brehm
Ava Creemers
Amie Fairs
Sara Iacozza
Suzanne Jongman
Nina Mainz
Jeroen van Paridon
Limor Raviv
Linda Taschenberger
Marwa Mekni Toujani
Johanne Tromp
Eirini Zormpa


Completed dissertations:

Jeroen Van Paridon (2021), "Speaking while listening: Language processing in speech shadowing and translation", full text.
Eirini Zormpa (2020), "Memory for speaking and listening", full text.
Limor Raviv (2020), "Language and society: How social pressures shape grammatical structure", full text.
Sara Iacozza (2020), "Exploring social biases in language processing", full text.
Amie Fairs (2019), "Linguistic dual-tasking: Understanding temporal overlap between production and comprehension", full text.
Nina Mainz (2018), "Vocabulary knowledge and learning: Individual differences in adult native speakers", full text.
Johanne Tromp (2018), "Indirect request comprehension in different contexts", full text.
Suzanne Jongman (2016), "Sustained attention in language production", full text.



The Cultural Brain

The Cultural Brain research group, led by Falk Huettig, investigates how cultural inventions – such as written words, numbers, music, and belief systems – shape our mind and brain from the day we are born.

Our research is divided into three themes (the Literate Brain, the Predictive Brain, and the Multimodal Brain), each of which provides us with a unique window for exploring the culturally-shaped mind.

We use behavioural measures, functional and structural neuroimaging techniques, and computational modelling to help us answer the central question: To what extent does culture determine what it means to think as a human?

For more information about our research team and current projects, visit the Cultural Brain research group page.

Individual Differences in Language Skills

Individual differences in language skills are ubiquitous in our daily lives. While some people are essentially ‘walking dictionaries’ with versatile vocabularies, others rely on smaller, possibly more specialized sets of words. Similarly, individuals differ substantially in their speech rate: While some people are astonishingly fast speakers, others tend to ‘take their time’.

In this cluster, we investigate how individual differences (IDs) in linguistic processing skills, speaking and listening, come about. We ask how IDs in speaking and listening are influenced by variability in linguistic knowledge (such as vocabulary, grammar knowledge, and idiomatic expressions) or general cognitive skills (such as processing speed, working memory capacity and non-verbal reasoning). We also ask how basic processing skills (e.g., producing and comprehending words and sentences) affect speaking and listening in more complex settings, such as having a conversation.

In collaborations with researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Neurobiology of Language Department, Language and Genetics Department) and the Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behavior, we explore neurobiological and genetic bases of variability in language skills.

This cluster overlaps much with the project Variability in language processing and language learning, led by Antje Meyer and James McQueen, which is funded by the Netherlands Science Organization as part of the Language in Interaction consortium.

How do we conduct our research?
Between 2017 and 2022, we developed and validated the Individual Differences in Language Skills (IDLaS-NL) test battery—a set of behavioral tests measuring linguistic knowledge, general cognitive skills, and linguistic processing skills. We applied the test battery to ~750 younger Dutch adults, aged between 18 and 30. All participants provided us with a saliva sample for genetic analyses. A little more than 200 of these participants additionally underwent extensive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) testing, where function and structure of their brains were assessed. Behavioral, neurobiological and genetic analyses are currently underway and will be published in due time.

IDLaS-NL Network analysis

A web platform for running customized studies via the internet
The IDLaS-NL test battery is freely available for anyone interested (researchers, clinicians, teachers) in running studies on individual differences in language and general cognitive skills via the internet. We created a web platform with an intuitive graphical interface for users to make selections of the behavioral tests they wish to include in their own research, to divide these tests into different sessions and to determine their order. Moreover, for standardized administration the platform provides an app (an emulated browser) wherein the tests are run. Results can be retrieved by mouse click in the graphical interface and are provided as CSV-file output via email. Similarly, the graphical interface enables researchers to modify and delete their test selections.

The IDLaS-NL platform can be accessed at www.mpi.nl/idlas-nl.

IDLaS screenshot

Members and collaborators
Sandra Bethke
Simon Fisher (PI)
Stephanie Forkel
Peter Hagoort (PI)
Florian Hintz (cluster coordinator)
Milou Huijsmans
Rogier Kievit
Jiska Koemans
Rogier Mars
James McQueen (PI)
Antje Meyer (PI)
Janay Monen
Ingrid Szilagyi
Atsuko Takashima

Research Tools

Test battery

Hintz et al. (in preparation). IDLaS-NL – A platform for running customized studies on individual differences in language skills via the internet.


Decuyper et al. (in preparation). Bank of Standardized Stimuli (BOSS): Dutch names for 1300 photographs.

Duñabeitia, J. A., Crepaldi, D., Meyer, A. S., New, B., Pliatsikas, C., Smolka, E., & Brysbaert, M. (2018). MultiPic: A standardized set of 750 drawings with norms for six European languages. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(4), 808-816. doi:10.1080/17470218.2017.1310261.

De Groot, F., Koelewijn, T., Huettig, F., & Olivers, C. N. L. (2016). A stimulus set of words and pictures matched for visual and semantic similarity. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 28(1), 1-15. doi:10.1080/20445911.2015.1101119.

Shao, Z., Roelofs, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2014). Predicting naming latencies for action pictures: Dutch norms. Behavior Research Methods, 46, 274-283. doi:10.3758/s13428-013-0358-6.

Shao, Z., & Stiegert, J. (2016). Predictors of photo naming: Dutch norms for 327 photos. Behavior Research Methods, 48(2), 577-584. doi:10.3758/s13428-015-0613-0.


Bosker, H. R. (2021). Using fuzzy string matching for automated assessment of listener transcripts in speech intelligibility studies. Behavior Research Methods, 53(5), 1945-1953. doi:10.3758/s13428-021-01542-4.

Corcoran, A. W., Alday, P. M., Schlesewsky, M., & Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, I. (2018). Toward a reliable, automated method of individual alpha frequency (IAF) quantification. Psychophysiology, 55(7): e13064. doi:10.1111/psyp.13064.

Rodd, J., Bosker, H. R., Ten Bosch, L., & Ernestus, M. (2019). Deriving the onset and offset times of planning units from acoustic and articulatory measurements. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 145(2), EL161-EL167. doi:10.1121/1.5089456.

Schillingmann, L., Ernst, J., Keite, V., Wrede, B., Meyer, A. S., & Belke, E. (2018). AlignTool: The automatic temporal alignment of spoken utterances in German, Dutch, and British English for psycholinguistic purposes. Behavior Research Methods, 50(2), 466-489. doi:10.3758/s13428-017-1002-7.

Shao, Z., Janse, E., Visser, K., & Meyer, A. S. (2014). What do verbal fluency tasks measure? Predictors of verbal fluency performance in older adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 772. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00772.

Shao, Z., & Meyer, A. S. (2018). Word priming and interference paradigms. In A. M. B. De Groot, & P. Hagoort (Eds.), Research methods in psycholinguistics and the neurobiology of language: A practical guide (pp. 111-129). Hoboken: Wiley.

Veenstra, A., Acheson, D. J., & Meyer, A. S. (2014). Keeping it simple: Studying grammatical encoding with lexically-reduced item sets. Frontiers in Psychology, 5: 783. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00783.

Past Projects

The Representation and Computation of Structure (RepCom) group

The RepCom Cluster has ended with the initiation of the Max Planck Independent Research Group "Language and Computation in Neural Systems"

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