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"

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: Language and Cognitive Processes

Real-world language combines production with comprehension in conversation; this is supported by a mental juggling act that allows us to ‘perform’ language in a multi-tasking context (listening while preparing to speak, predicting while listening) by recruiting cognitive processes such as executive control and memory. This cluster seeks to uncover how the juggling act of language works: We study how speaking and listening are coordinated in conversational contexts, and how speaking and listening are supported by domain-general cognitive mechanisms. We use a wide variety of tools to do so, including behavioural experiments, EEG,  eye-tracking, and computational modeling.


Laurel Brehm (Cluster leader)
Antje Meyer
Ava Creemers
Elli Tourtouri
Federica Bartolozzi (PhD student)
Caitlin Decuyper (PhD student)
Jieying He (PhD student)
Jeroen van Paridon (PhD student)
Aitor San Jose (PhD student)
Eirini Zormpa (PhD student)



Phillip Alday
Amie Fairs
Matt Goldrick
Alexis Hervais-Adelman
Suzanne Jongman
Agnieszka Konopka
Shiri Lev-Ari
Vitória Piai
Ardi Roelofs

Former members:

Sara Iacozza
Nina Mainz
Limor Raviv
Linda Taschenberger
Marwa Mekni Toujani


Big questions:

In this cluster, we are looking for answers to the following questions:

  • How are the processes of speech planning and listening related to each other, and how do they differ?
  • What is the role of attention in speaking and listening?
  • What are the constraints on the scheduling of comprehension and production processes in dialogue? Can interlocutors put one process "on hold" to prioritize the other?
  • What cognitive abilities do speakers draw on to select and sequence the right words in the right structures (and avoid the wrong ones)?
  • How do changes in modalities (e.g. speaking vs listening; listening vs reading) affect language learning and memory for language?


Completed dissertations:

Sara Iacozza: Exploring social biases in language processing

Limor Raviv: Language and society: How social pressures shape grammatical structure

Amie Fairs: Linguistic dual-tasking: Understanding temporal overlap between production and comprehension

Johanne Tromp: Indirect request comprehension in different contexts

Nina Mainz: Vocabulary knowledge and learning: Individual differences in adult native speakers

Susanne Jongman: Sustained attention in language production



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 Processing

The ‘Individual Differences in Language Processing’ (IndividuLa) project is largely funded by the Language in Interaction consortium. Language in Interaction brings together 70 researchers from eight universities and one research institute within the Netherlands to understand the unique capacity of language. The goal of this research program is to account for, and understand the balance between universality and variability at all relevant levels of the language system and the interplay with different cognitive systems, such as memory, action, and cognitive control.

Within the Language in Interaction consortium, IndividuLa is part of the Big Question 4 project—a large effort to map out and understand individual differences in language processing and language learning – led by Antje Meyer and James McQueen.

The goal of IndividuLa is to apply a battery of tests targeting linguistic knowledge (e.g. vocabulary size, grammar rule knowledge), linguistic processing skills (e.g. word production/comprehension, sentence production/comprehension) and general cognitive skills (e.g. processing speed, working memory) to a demographically representative group of 1000 Dutch adults aged between 18 and 30. DNA will be obtained from all participants and used for genome-wide genotyping. About a third of the sample will also participate in neuroimaging studies in order to map the variation in neurobiology across the population.

We will use advanced statistical modelling to derive underlying core dimensions of linguistic ability, to situate each participant in a multidimensional skill space that maps population variation, and determine the manner in which these skills map onto structure and function of underlying brain circuitry.

Integrating our new sample with Nijmegen’s existing Brain Imaging Genetics cohorts, we will carry out focused investigations of genes and biological pathways that have been previously implicated in language ability, test how polygenic scores relate to performance on the task battery, and perform mediation analyses to bridge genes, brains and cognition.

IndividuLa started in January 2017. For the past three years, we have developed and extensively piloted the battery of language and cognitive skills tests in diverse samples of participants. In January 2019, the main study will commence.


Christian Beckmann (Principal investigator)
Marjolijn Dijkhuis (Research assistant)
Simon Fisher (Principal investigator)
Peter Hagoort (Principal investigator)
Florian Hintz (Cluster coordinator)
Vera van ’t Hoff (Research assistant)
Christina Isakoglou (Phd student)
Bob Kapteijns (Research assistant)
Xin Liu (Postdoctoral researcher)
James McQueen (Principal investigator)
Antje Meyer (Principal investigator)
Olha Shkaravska (Programmer)

(External) Collaborators

Marc Brysbaert (Ghent University)
Clyde Francks (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
Mante Nieuwland (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)
Sascha Schroeder (Goettingen University)
Beate St Pourcain (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics)

Research Tools


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.


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.

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.

Annotation Tools

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.

Distributed Annotation System - Joe Rodd (in preparation)

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