Falk Huettig


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  • Hintz, F., Meyer, A. S., & Huettig, F. (2014). Mechanisms underlying predictive language processing. Talk presented at the 56. Tagung experimentell arbeitender Psychologen [TeaP, Conference on Experimental Psychology]. Giessen, Germany. 2014-03-31 - 2014-04-02.
  • Hintz, F., Meyer, A. S., & Huettig, F. (2014). The influence of verb-specific featural restrictions, word associations, and production-based mechanisms on language-mediated anticipatory eye movements. Talk presented at the 27th annual CUNY conference on human sentence processing. Ohio State University, Columbus/Ohio (US). 2014-03-13 - 2014-03-15.
  • Huettig, F., & Guerra, E. (2014). Context-dependent mapping of linguistic and color representations challenges strong forms of embodiment. Talk presented at the 20th Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing Conference (AMLAP 2014). Edinburgh, UK. 2014-09-03 - 2014-09-06.


    A central claim of embodied theories of cognition is that sensory representations are routinely activated and influence language processing even in the absence of relevant sensory input (cf. Pulvermüller, 2005; Wassenburg & Zwaan, 2010). We tested the influence of color representations during language processing in three visual world eye tracking experiments. The method is particularly well suited to investigate this issue because the availability of relevant visual input can be manipulated. We made use of the phenomena that when participants hear a word that refers to a visual object or printed word they quickly direct their eye gaze to objects or printed words which are similar (e.g. semantically or visually) to the heard word. We used a look and listen task which previously has been shown to be sensitive to such relationships between spoken words and visual items. In Experiment 1, on experimental trials, participants listened to sentences containing a critical target word associated with a prototypical color (e.g. '...spinach...') as they inspected a visual display with four words printed in black font. One of the four printed words was associated with the same prototypical color (e.g. green) as the spoken target word (e.g. FROG). On experimental trials, the spoken target word did not have a printed word counterpart (SPINACH was not present in the display). In filler trials (70% of trials) the target was present in the display and attracted significantly more overt attention than the unrelated distractors. In experimental trials color competitors were not looked at more than the distractors. In Experiment 2 the printed words were replaced with line drawings of the objects. In order to direct the attentional focus of our participants toward color features we used a within-participants counter-balanced design and alternated color and greyscale trials randomly throughout the experiment. Therefore, on one trial our participants heard a word such as 'spinach' and saw a frog (colored in green) in the visual display. On the next trial however they saw a banana (in greyscale) on hearing 'canary' (bananas and canaries are typically yellow), etc. The presence (or absence) of color was thus a salient property of the experiment. Participants looked more at color competitors than unrelated distractors on hearing the target word in the color trials but not in the greyscale trials, i.e. on hearing 'spinach' they looked at the green frog but not the greyscale frog. Experiment 3 was identical to Experiment 2, except that the visual display was removed at the sentence onset, after a longer preview. This experiment examined whether the continued presence of color in the immediate visual environment was necessary for the observation of color-mediated eye movements. Eye movements directed towards the now blank screen were recorded as the sentence unfolded (cf. Spivey & Geng, 2001). In the filler trials, participants looked significantly more at the locations where the targets, rather than the distractors, had been previously presented as the target words acoustically unfolded. In the experimental trials, the locations where the color competitors had previously been presented did not attract increased attention (neither in color nor greyscale trials). These data demonstrate that language-mediated eye movements are only influenced by color relations between spoken words and visually displayed items if color is present in the immediate visual environment. We conclude that color representations are unlikely to be routinely activated in language processing. Our findings provide strong constraints for embodied theories of cognition which assume that sensory representations influence language processing even in the absence of relevant sensory input. These results fit best with the notion that the main role of sensory representations in language processing is a different one, namely to contextualize language in the immediate environment, connecting language to the here and now.
  • Huettig, F. (2015). Does prediction in language comprehension involve language production?. Talk presented at the Comprehension=Production? workshop. Nijmegen, the Netherlands. 2015-03-26 - 2015-03-28.


    The notion that predicting upcoming linguistic information in language comprehension makes use of the production system has recently received much attention (e.g., Chang et al., 2006; Dell & Chang, 2014; Federmeier, 2007; Pickering & Garrod, 2007, 2013; Van Berkum et al., 2005). So far there has been little experimental evidence for a relation between prediction and production. I will discuss the results of several recent eye-tracking experiments with toddlers (Mani & Huettig, 2012) and adults (Rommers et al. submitted, Hintz et al., in prep.) which provide some support for the view that production abilities are linked to language-mediated anticipatory eye movements. These data however also indicate that production-based prediction is situation-dependent and only one of many mechanisms supporting prediction. Taken together, these results suggest that multiple-mechanism accounts are required to provide a complete picture of anticipatory language processing.
  • Huettig, F. (2014). How embodied is language processing?. Talk presented at the 2nd Attentive Listener in the Visual World workshop. Hyderabad, India. 2014-11-03 - 2014-11-05.
  • Huettig, F. (2014). How literacy acquisition affects the illiterate mind. Talk presented at the Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (LESLLA). Nijmegen, Netherlands. 2014-08-28 - 2014-08-30.
  • Huettig, F. (2014). Literacy influences on predictive language processing and visual search. Talk presented at the Priming across Modalities: The Influence of Orthography on Sign and Spoken Language Processing workshop. Haifa, Israel. 2014-04.
  • Huettig, F. (2014). The context-dependent influence of colour representations during language-vision interactions constrains theories of conceptual processing. Talk presented at the Color in Concepts workshop. Düsseldorf, Germany. 2014-06-02 - 2014-06-03.
  • Smith, A. C., Monaghan, P., & Huettig, F. (2014). A comprehensive model of spoken word recognition must be multimodal: Evidence from studies of language mediated visual attention. Talk presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society [CogSci 2014]. Quebec, Canada. 2014-07-23 - 2014-07-26.
  • Smith, A. C., Monaghan, P., & Huettig, F. (2014). Examining strains and symptoms of the ‘Literacy Virus’: The effects of orthographic transparency on phonological processing in a connectionist model of reading. Talk presented at the 36th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society [CogSci 2014]. Quebec, Canada. 2014-07-23 - 2014-07-26.
  • Smith, A. C., Monaghan, P., & Huettig, F. (2014). Examining the effects of orthographic transparency on phonological and semantic processing within a connectionist implementation of the triangle model of reading. Talk presented at the 14th Neural Computation and Psychology Workshop [NCPW 14]. Lancaster, U.K. 2014-08-21 - 2014-08-23.
  • Huettig, F., Chen, J., Bowerman, M., & Majid, A. (2008). Linguistic relativity: Evidence from Mandarin speakers’ eye-movements. Talk presented at 14th Annual Conference on the Architectures and Mechanisms for Language Processing [AMLaP 2008]. Cambridge, UK. 2008-09-04 - 2008-09-06.


    If a Mandarin speaker had walked past two rivers and wished to describe how many he had seen, he would have to say “two tiao river”, where tiao designates long, rope-like objects such as rivers, snakes and legs. Tiao is one of several hundred classifiers – a grammatical category in Mandarin. In two eye-tracking studies we presented Mandarin speakers with simple Mandarin sentences through headphones while monitoring their eye-movements to objects presented on a computer monitor. The crucial question is what participants look at while listening to a pre-specified target noun. If classifier categories influence general conceptual processing then on hearing the target noun participants should look at objects that are also members of the same classifier category – even when the classifier is not explicitly present. For example, on hearing scissors, Mandarin speakers should look more at a picture of a chair than at an unrelated object because scissors and chair share the classifier ba. This would be consistent with a Strong Whorfian position, according to which language is a major determinant in shaping conceptual thought (Sapir, 1921; Whorf, 1956). A weaker influence of language-on-thought could be predicted, where language shapes cognitive processing, but only when the language-specific category is actively being processed (Slobin, 1996). According to this account, eye-movements are not necessarily drawn to chair when a participant hears scissors, but they would be on hearing ba scissors. This is because hearing ba activates the linguistic category that both scissors and chair belong to. A third logical possibility is that classifiers are purely formal markers (cf. Greenberg, 1972; Lehman, 1979) that do not influence attentional processing even when they are explicitly present. The data showed that when participants heard a spoken word from the same classifier category as a visually depicted object (e.g. scissors-chair), but the classifier was not explicitly presented in the speech, overt attention to classifier-match objects (e.g. chair) and distractor objects did not differ (Experiment 1). But when the classifier was explicitly presented (e.g. ba, Experiment 2), participants shifted overt attention significantly more to classifier-match objects (e.g. chair) than to distractors. These data are incompatible with the Strong Whorfian hypothesis. Instead the findings support the Weak Whorfian hypothesis that linguistic distinctions force attention to properties of the world but only during active linguistic processing of that distinction (cf. Slobin, 1996).

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