Predictive processing during discourse comprehension

Casillas, M., & Frank, M. C. (2013). Predictive processing during discourse comprehension. Talk presented at the 166th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. San Francisco, CA. 2013-12-02 - 2013-12-06.
We investigate children’s online predictive processing as it occurs naturally, in conversation. We showed 129 children (1;0–7;0) short videos of improvised conversation between puppets, controlling for available linguistic information through phonetic manipulation: normal, prosody only (lowpass filtered), lexical only (rhythm controlled and pitch flattened), and none (multi-talker babble). We tracked their eye movements during the videos, measuring their anticipatory looks to upcoming speakers at points of turn switch (e.g., after a question and before an answer). Even one- and two-year-old children made accurate and spontaneous predictions about when a turn-switch would occur: they gazed at the upcoming speaker before they heard a response begin. By age three, children distinguished between different types of response-eliciting speech acts, looking faster to question- than non-question responses—but only when all linguistic information was available. By age seven, children’s gaze behavior also distinguished between rising and non-rising turns in the prosody only condition. These predictive skills rely on both lexical and prosodic information together, and are not tied to either type of information alone. We suggest that children integrate prosodic, lexical, and visual information to effectively predict upcoming linguistic material in conversation.
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