We are interested in many questions within psycholinguistics. Below are some examples of topics we have been exploring:

Integration of expectations and linguistic information

One important source of information when understanding a speaker’s message is the listener’s own set of expectations about what a speaker is likely to say. How do we integrate these expectations with incoming linguistic information? We have explored this question in different areas of language comprehension. For example, we found that listeners often seemed to ignore acoustic information that indicated the presence of intonational boundaries at unexpected locations in a sentence until these acoustic cues were very obvious. Even more surprisingly, listeners often reported hearing intonational boundaries in places where they expected them the most, even when the acoustic cues did not correspond to an intonational boundary (Buxó-Lugo & Watson, 2016). 

More recently, we have explored how the plausibility of a message affects how a listener represents the message itself. For example, if a listener hears a sentence that is highly unlikely, they may interpret the sentence as meaning something far more likely even if it goes against the actual sentence they heard (e.g., hearing “She gave the candle the daughter” and interpreting it as “She gave the candle to the daughter”). But is this simply a surface-level correction, or does this internal correction actually affect how we represent the sentence we heard? Our research suggests the latter: participants showed priming effects compatible with the syntactic structure of the sentence they internally corrected to, even though they had not heard this alternate structure (Buxó-Lugo & Slevc, under review).

Phonological encoding

An important part of speaking is selecting the appropriate sounds and articulating them in the right order for what we want to say. How do we do this? Some of our projects investigate this question by exploring how the words a speaker has recently produced affect the production of subsequent words. For example, we have found that when speakers tend to lengthen words that share the same few phonemes as a word that they have recently produced or even heard (Buxó-Lugo, Jacobs, & Watson, 2020). Additionally, we have proposed a computational model that explains this effect as a consequence of serial order in the phonological encoding process.

Speech adaptation

Rapid adaptation is an important tool for navigating the noise and variability present in spoken communication. What types of changes are listeners capable of adapting to, and how do they do so? We have specifically looked at adaptation to new uses of prosody, and found that listeners can quickly change how they interpret ambiguous intonational contours depending on their recent experience with a talker (Xie, Buxó-Lugo, & Kurumada, 2021).

Extra-linguistic context and language production

When we speak, the way in which we say something might vary depending on the communicative context in which we say it. How do different aspects of communicative context shape the form of the messages we produce? We have explored how the level of engagement with which a speaker participates in a task affected how they used cues such as word duration and intonation to better mark whether words had been repeated or whether they were new to the conversation (Buxó-Lugo, Toscano, & Watson, 2018). We have also explored whether a speaker’s emotions affect the intonational contours of their message in ways that parallel music (Buxó-Lugo & Slevc, 2022).