Maria Richter, Mariella Paul, Barbara Höhle, and Isabell Wartenburger (2020)

Common Ground Information Affects Reference Resolution: Evidence From Behavioral Data, ERPs, and Eye-Tracking

Frontiers in psychology, 11(3378).

One of the most important social cognitive skills in humans is the ability to “put oneself in someone else’s shoes,” that is, to take another person’s perspective. In socially situated communication, perspective taking enables the listener to arrive at a meaningful interpretation of what is said (sentence meaning) and what is meant (speaker’s meaning) by the speaker. To successfully decode the speaker’s meaning, the listener has to take into account which information he/she and the speaker share in their common ground (CG). We here further investigated competing accounts about when and how CG information affects language comprehension by means of reaction time (RT) measures, accuracy data, event-related potentials (ERPs), and eye-tracking. Early integration accounts would predict that CG information is considered immediately and would hence not expect to find costs of CG integration. Late integration accounts would predict a rather late and effortful integration of CG information during the parsing process that might be reflected in integration or updating costs. Other accounts predict the simultaneous integration of privileged ground (PG) and CG perspectives. We used a computerized version of the referential communication game with object triplets of different sizes presented visually in CG or PG. In critical trials (i.e., conflict trials), CG information had to be integrated while privileged information had to be suppressed. Listeners mastered the integration of CG (response accuracy 99.8%). Yet, slower RTs, and enhanced late positivities in the ERPs showed that CG integration had its costs. Moreover, eye-tracking data indicated an early anticipation of referents in CG but an inability to suppress looks to the privileged competitor, resulting in later and longer looks to targets in those trials, in which CG information had to be considered. Our data therefore support accounts that foresee an early anticipation of referents to be in CG but a rather late and effortful integration if conflicting information has to be processed. We show that both perspectives, PG and CG, contribute to socially situated language processing and discuss the data with reference to theoretical accounts and recent findings on the use of CG information for reference resolution.

Document Actions