Huettig, F., Singh, N., & Mishra, R.
(2010). Language-mediated prediction is contingent upon formal literacy. Talk presented at Brain, Speech and Orthography Workshop. Brussels, Belgium. 2010-10-15 - 2010-10-16.
A wealth of research has demonstrated that prediction is a core feature of human information processing. Much less is known, however, about the nature and the extent of predictive processing abilities. Here we investigated whether high levels of language expertise attained through formal literacy are related to anticipatory language-mediated visual orienting. Indian low and high literates listened to simple spoken sentences containing a target word (e.g., "door") while at the same time looking at a visual display of four objects (a target, i.e. the door, and three distractors). The spoken sentences were constructed to encourage anticipatory eye movements to visual target objects. High literates started to shift their eye gaze to the target object well before target word onset. In the low literacy group this shift of eye gaze occurred more than a second later, well after the onset of the target. Our findings suggest that formal literacy is crucial for the fine-tuning of language-mediated anticipatory mechanisms, abilities which proficient language users can then exploit for other cognitive activities such as language-mediated visual orienting.