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How adults rapidly interpret, an re-interpret, speech

Trainee Achievements

How adults rapidly interpret, an re-interpret, speech

IGERT Trainee Sarah Johnstone Drucker has gained expertise in psycholinguistics to study how adults rapidly interpret, and re-interpret, speech. Interpreting speech requires a listener to store the meaning of a sentence in memory at least temporarily while further speech is processed. However, later information sometimes requires a listener to revise, or re-interpret, earlier information (consider ambiguous words). Drucker, with her advisor Professor Delphine Dahan, performed a series of eyetracking experiments designed to ask whether the initial incorrect interpretation of a sentence is "erased" from memory when it is reinterpreted, or whether such incorrect interpretations linger in memory, generating inconsistencies in people’s understanding of the speech. The findings indicate that listeners do indeed hold onto initial incorrect interpretations, often not noticing the inconsistencies. This work has important implications for understanding human memory and language processing.