Research


Our lab (Cognition and Language Processing Lab) is located in room 0101 on the ground floor of Morrill Hall. This building is on the south end of campus, just north of Lefrak and south of Tydings Hall. 


One of the most striking computational properties of the human mind is its ability to interpret speech and text in real time. As you read this sentence, you are quickly retrieving from long-term memory not only the meanings of the individual words, but also detailed grammatical knowledge about how these words lawfully combine to engender a coherent overall interpretation. Findings from language processing studies suggest that readers and listeners achieve much of this process
moment-by-moment as they encounter language input (sounds, words, phrases). That is, when reading or processing speech, people don't delay interpretation until a sentence or even a single word unfolds entirely; rather, they commit to provisional analyses incrementally on the basis of accumulating evidence, rapidly consulting multiple sources of information from both the linguistic signal and the external visual environment to guide comprehension.

Real-time processing is certainly efficient, obviating the need to hold in working memory low-level characterizations of the input (e.g., visual or phonological representations) for extended periods of time. However, processing language ‘on-the-fly’ comes at the cost of having to deal with temporary ambiguity, as early analyses sometimes turn out wrong when new, later-arriving input suggests a quite different interpretation. Our work seeks to understand the human computational system that supports the real-time interpretation and re-interpretation of sentences. In particular, we investigate how domain-general ‘cognitive control’ functions contribute to language processing during both reading and the comprehension of speech. In some recent work, for example, we've taken a novel cross-task design approach to test for causal effects of cognitive control engagement on language processing.


(see Hsu & Novick, 2016, Psychological Science)