Conversational expectations get revised as response latencies unfold

Bögels, S., Kendrick, K. H., & Levinson, S. C. (2020). Conversational expectations get revised as response latencies unfold. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(6), 766-779. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1590609.
The present study extends neuro-imaging into conversation through studying dialogue comprehension. Conversation entails rapid responses, with negative semiotics for delay. We explored how expectations about the valence of the forthcoming response develop during the silence before the response and whether negative responses have mainly cognitive or social-emotional consequences. EEG-participants listened to questions from a spontaneous spoken corpus, cross-spliced with short/long gaps and “yes”/“no” responses. Preceding contexts biased listeners to expect the eventual response, which was hypothesised to translate to expectations for a shorter or longer gap. “No” responses showed a trend towards an early positivity, suggesting socio-emotional consequences. Within the long gap, expecting a “yes” response led to an earlier negativity, as well as a trend towards stronger theta-oscillations, after 300 milliseconds. This suggests that listeners anticipate/predict “yes” responses to come earlier than “no” responses, showing strong sensitivities to timing, which presumably promote hastening the pace of verbal interaction.
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