Presentation on theme: "Comprehending Conversational Utterances: Experimental Studies of the Comprehension of Speaker Meaning Thomas Holtgraves Dept. of Psychological Science."— Presentation transcript:
Comprehending Conversational Utterances: Experimental Studies of the Comprehension of Speaker Meaning Thomas Holtgraves Dept. of Psychological Science Ball State University Muncie, IN USA
Speaker Meaning What a speaker intends to convey with an utterance on a particular occasion of use (Clark, 1985) Often different from literal or direct meaning Fundamental issue: How do language users comprehend indirect speaker meaning? What are the social, cognitive, and neural processes that underlie comprehension?
Types of Nonliteral Meaning Commonly studied: Metaphor – My job is a jail. Ironic sarcasm – You’re a great friend (when one isn’t) Indirect requests – Could you open the window? Less commonly studied: Implicit Speech acts Indirect replies Different Comprehension Processes Involved
Speech Act Theory John Austin and John Searle Language use as action Illocutionary act – specific act(s) speaker intends the hearer to recognize – Take the form of speech act verbs (e.g., criticize, thank, apologize, offer, etc.) Implicit speech acts do not contain the speech act verb (I’ll definitely do it tomorrow)
Speech Act Processing Is speech act recognition involved in utterance comprehension? Necessary? (Not according to relevance theory) Good enough processing in conversations; quick take on speaker meaning (via speech act recognition)
Speech Act Activation Experiments (Holtgraves & Ashley, 2001; Holtgraves, 2008) Jenny and Emily had been close friends since grade school. Now there were rooming together at college. Emily was very forgetful. Today, Jenny was sure Emily didn’t remember her dentist appointment.
Jenny: Don’t forget to go to your dentist appointment today.
Sample Experimental Materials Jenny and Emily had been close friends since grade school. Now there were rooming together at college. Emily was very forgetful. Today, Jenny was sure Emily didn’t remember (had forgotten) her dentist appointment. Jenny: Don’t forget (I’ll bet you forgot) to go to your dentist appointment today. Probe: Remind
Recognition Probe Reaction Times (ms) Holtgraves, 2008
Implicit Speech Act Comprehension Experiments Lexical Decision Procedure (Word/Nonword): – Judge speech act words (e.g., remind) faster after speech act utterances than control utterances Participants vs. Observers – Conversation Bot (SAM): Participants demonstrate automatic speech act activation – SAM: Don’t take a class from Harmon, he’s terrible » WARN
Speech Acts and Memory Holtgraves (2008) Do Speech acts play a role in long-term representation? Participants read scenarios/utterances – Speech act/control versions – Rated scenarios (incidental memory) – Intervening task (recall states) Memory test – Recognition or Recall
What are the Neurophysiological Underpinnings of Speech Act Comprehension? Does Everyone Automatically Recognize Speech Acts?
Speech Act Recognition in Parkinson’s Disease Parkinson’s Disease (PD) can display cognitive and social deficits as well as motor deficits Are social deficits due to pragmatic deficits (speech act recognition)? PD (N = 28) and age matched controls (N = 32) performed lexical decision task following speech act/control scenarios (rewritten for PD). - Assess executive function (stroop task)
Lexical Decision Times (ms) Holtgraves & McNamara, 2010
Speech Act Priming and Utterance Production Speech act priming correlated with under- informativeness in interactions – Interviews coded for under-informativeness Failure to recognize others’ intentions related to lack of informativeness in utterance production
Neural Underpinnings Why speech act recognition disrupted in PD? Our results suggest executive cognitive function: – Speech act priming correlated with stroop interference for PD Ps(r = -.81) but not control Ps (r =.05). Action verb/motor circuit connection Speech act deficit due to motor impairment Comprehension of action entails some simulation of action (embodied cognition) Upper body impairment - more lower body verbs
Neural Underpinnngs of Speech Act Comprehension: Lateralization Role of right hemisphere (RH) in speaker meaning – Evidence from RHD participants (poor at recognizing nonliteral meanings) – RH intention recognition (imaging data) Predict RH specialized for Speech Act comprehension Speech Act Comprehension materials – Lateralize targets to RVF/LH or LVF/RH
Jenny: Don’t forget to go to your dentist appointment today.
Lexical Decision Speed as a Function of Utterance Type and Visual Field Holtgraves, 2012
Indirect Replies Context-Dependent Speaker Meaning
Indirect Replies Replies that violate the Relation Maxim (be relevant) No preferred reading out of context (particularized implicatures) Example: Nick: What did you think of my presentation? Paul: It’s hard to give a good presentation.
Indirect Replies – How are indirect replies interpreted? – Why are they interpreted this way? – How do people make this interpretation? – What are the neural underpinnings of this process?
Model: Grice + Goffman Relevance violation is noticed/inference generated Inference based on perceived reason for violation Relevance violations occur because of face management Recipients realize this and use it as an interpretive frame In general, relevance violations should be interpreted as conveying FT information
Relevance Violation Experiments Which inference? Participants read scenarios, questions and replies Manipulate context: – Positive (presentation was good) – Negative (presentation was bad) – No information Ask Ps to: Interpret replies Time reply comprehension
Percent Negative Interpretations Indirect replies interpreted just as negatively in no information contexts as in negative information contexts
Reply Comprehension Speed (in ms) as a Function of Context Indirect replies interpreted just as quickly in no information contexts as in negative information contexts
Relevance Violation Experiments Comprehension Processes Manipulate context: Force literal or indirect reading Assess: reply comprehension speed indirect meaning priming literal priming
Reply Comprehension Speed (ms) Process is time-consuming (replies with indirect meanings take longer than matched controls)
Sentence Verification Speed (ms) Sentence verification judgments for indirect interpretations faster following replies with indirect meanings relative to replies with literal meaning: Indirect meaning activated on-line (at comprehension, not post- hoc)
Dispreferred Markers and Reply Comprehension If recognition of face management drives interpretive process, then factors suggesting face management is operative should facilitate comprehension Indirect Reply comprehension faster if preceded by: – “Well” – Brief delay (2 s)
Neural Correlates Basnakova et al., 2011 fMRI while comprehending indirect replies Face-saving vs. informative indirect replies (It’s hard to give a good presentation) – Greater activation of: Right Anterior Cingulate Cortex (empathy) Right Superior Temporal Gyrus (inferencing) Right Inferior Frontal Cortex (contextual integration)
Summing Up Nonliteral speaker meaning is pervasive in conversation Many different types of nonliteral meaning Different social, cognitive, and neural processes involved in their comprehension Social processes: face management – Comprehension is a mirror image of production (FM) Cognitive processes: good enough processing Neural processes: RH and frontal networks involved in perspective taking and inferencing (networks different from classic language networks) Process models require more research on real-time pragmatic processing (e.g., EEG)