Poster A57, Saturday, March 25, 5:00 – 7:00 pm, Pacific Concourse
Modeling the minds of co-listeners during language comprehension: an ERP study.
Olessia Jouravlev1, Dima Ayyash1, Zach Mineroff1, Evelina Fedorenko1,2,3; 1Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2Harvard Medical School, 3Massachusetts General Hospital
During language comprehension, we make use of knowledge about the speakers’ mental states (Brennan et al., 2010). Do we also keep track of what other listeners do or do not understand? We asked participants to read semantically implausible sentences (His boat has new wheels now) preceded by a context that rendered them plausible (e.g., Mike turned his boat into a car), while their ERPs were recorded. Participants performed a plausibility judgment task, read sentences passively, or answered comprehension questions. The presence of another comprehender (a confederate) was manipulated. In the critical condition, the target sentences were implausible to a confederate, who did not receive the context. Without a confederate present, participants showed no evidence of difficulty in semantic processing (no N400 effect). However, when the confederate was present, they exhibited an N400 effect, suggesting that they adopted the perspective of the confederate, who was unable to make sense of the critical sentences. This “social N400” effect held when participants were explicitly instructed to think about the state of mind of the confederate (Exp.1; replicating Rueschemeyer et al., 2015), but also, importantly, when no such instructions were given (Exp.2), suggesting that language comprehenders automatically engage in modeling the mental states of co-listeners. These results strongly support the idea that we robustly and consistently engage our Theory of Mind abilities during language comprehension.
Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Other