Rong Ding


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  • Ding, R., Ten Oever, S., & Martin, A. E. (2024). Delta-band activity underlies referential meaning representation during pronoun resolution. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 36(7), 1472-1492. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_02163.


    Human language offers a variety of ways to create meaning, one of which is referring to entities, objects, or events in the world. One such meaning maker is understanding to whom or to what a pronoun in a discourse refers to. To understand a pronoun, the brain must access matching entities or concepts that have been encoded in memory from previous linguistic context. Models of language processing propose that internally stored linguistic concepts, accessed via exogenous cues such as phonological input of a word, are represented as (a)synchronous activities across a population of neurons active at specific frequency bands. Converging evidence suggests that delta band activity (1–3 Hz) is involved in temporal and representational integration during sentence processing. Moreover, recent advances in the neurobiology of memory suggest that recollection engages neural dynamics similar to those which occurred during memory encoding. Integrating from these two research lines, we here tested the hypothesis that neural dynamic patterns, especially in delta frequency range, underlying referential meaning representation, would be reinstated during pronoun resolution. By leveraging neural decoding techniques (i.e., representational similarity analysis) on a magnetoencephalogram data set acquired during a naturalistic story-listening task, we provide evidence that delta-band activity underlies referential meaning representation. Our findings suggest that, during spoken language comprehension, endogenous linguistic representations such as referential concepts may be proactively retrieved and represented via activation of their underlying dynamic neural patterns.
  • Van Geert, E., Ding, R., & Wagemans, J. (2024). A cross-cultural comparison of aesthetic preferences for neatly organized compositions: Native Chinese- versus Native Dutch-speaking samples. Empirical Studies of the Arts. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/02762374241245917.


    Do aesthetic preferences for images of neatly organized compositions (e.g., images collected on blogs like Things Organized Neatly©) generalize across cultures? In an earlier study, focusing on stimulus and personal properties related to order and complexity, Western participants indicated their preference for one of two simultaneously presented images (100 pairs). In the current study, we compared the data of the native Dutch-speaking participants from this earlier sample (N = 356) to newly collected data from a native Chinese-speaking sample (N = 220). Overall, aesthetic preferences were quite similar across cultures. When relating preferences for each sample to ratings of order, complexity, soothingness, and fascination collected from a Western, mainly Dutch-speaking sample, the results hint at a cross-culturally consistent preference for images that Western participants rate as more ordered, but a cross-culturally diverse relation between preferences and complexity.
  • Zhang, Y., Ding, R., Frassinelli, D., Tuomainen, J., Klavinskis-Whiting, S., & Vigliocco, G. (2023). The role of multimodal cues in second language comprehension. Scientific Reports, 13: 20824. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-47643-2.


    In face-to-face communication, multimodal cues such as prosody, gestures, and mouth movements can play a crucial role in language processing. While several studies have addressed how these cues contribute to native (L1) language processing, their impact on non-native (L2) comprehension is largely unknown. Comprehension of naturalistic language by L2 comprehenders may be supported by the presence of (at least some) multimodal cues, as these provide correlated and convergent information that may aid linguistic processing. However, it is also the case that multimodal cues may be less used by L2 comprehenders because linguistic processing is more demanding than for L1 comprehenders, leaving more limited resources for the processing of multimodal cues. In this study, we investigated how L2 comprehenders use multimodal cues in naturalistic stimuli (while participants watched videos of a speaker), as measured by electrophysiological responses (N400) to words, and whether there are differences between L1 and L2 comprehenders. We found that prosody, gestures, and informative mouth movements each reduced the N400 in L2, indexing easier comprehension. Nevertheless, L2 participants showed weaker effects for each cue compared to L1 comprehenders, with the exception of meaningful gestures and informative mouth movements. These results show that L2 comprehenders focus on specific multimodal cues – meaningful gestures that support meaningful interpretation and mouth movements that enhance the acoustic signal – while using multimodal cues to a lesser extent than L1 comprehenders overall.

    Additional information

    supplementary materials
  • Zhang, Y., Ding, R., Frassinelli, D., Tuomainen, J., Klavinskis-Whiting, S., & Vigliocco, G. (2021). Electrophysiological signatures of second language multimodal comprehension. In T. Fitch, C. Lamm, H. Leder, & K. Teßmar-Raible (Eds.), Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (CogSci 2021) (pp. 2971-2977). Vienna: Cognitive Science Society.


    Language is multimodal: non-linguistic cues, such as prosody,
    gestures and mouth movements, are always present in face-to-
    face communication and interact to support processing. In this
    paper, we ask whether and how multimodal cues affect L2
    processing by recording EEG for highly proficient bilinguals
    when watching naturalistic materials. For each word, we
    quantified surprisal and the informativeness of prosody,
    gestures, and mouth movements. We found that each cue
    modulates the N400: prosodic accentuation, meaningful
    gestures, and informative mouth movements all reduce N400.
    Further, effects of meaningful gestures but not mouth
    informativeness are enhanced by prosodic accentuation,
    whereas effects of mouth are enhanced by meaningful gestures
    but reduced by beat gestures. Compared with L1, L2
    participants benefit less from cues and their interactions, except
    for meaningful gestures and mouth movements. Thus, in real-
    world language comprehension, L2 comprehenders use
    multimodal cues just as L1 speakers albeit to a lesser extent.

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