Timing in conversation: The anticipation of turn endings

Magyari, L., & De Ruiter, J. P. (2008). Timing in conversation: The anticipation of turn endings. In J. Ginzburg, P. Healey, & Y. Sato (Eds.), Proceedings of the 12th Workshop on the Semantics and Pragmatics Dialogue (pp. 139-146). London: King's college.
We examined how communicators can switch between speaker and listener role with such accurate timing. During conversations, the majority of role transitions happens with a gap or overlap of only a few hundred milliseconds. This suggests that listeners can predict when the turn of the current speaker is going to end. Our hypothesis is that listeners know when a turn ends because they know how it ends. Anticipating the last words of a turn can help the next speaker in predicting when the turn will end, and also in anticipating the content of the turn, so that an appropriate response can be prepared in advance. We used the stimuli material of an earlier experiment (De Ruiter, Mitterer & Enfield, 2006), in which subjects were listening to turns from natural conversations and had to press a button exactly when the turn they were listening to ended. In the present experiment, we investigated if the subjects can complete those turns when only an initial fragment of the turn is presented to them. We found that the subjects made better predictions about the last words of those turns that had more accurate responses in the earlier button press experiment.
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