Language, Memory, and Discourse

What's the best way to speak if you want to be remembered? What sentence structure and manner of speech should you use, and what information should you present when? Factors such as emphasis in spoken speech (prosody), gestures, or even font emphasis in written text can influence not just how we first make sense of what we hear and read, but also what we remember over the long term. One line of work in our lab examines how linguistic variables influence our memory for text and discourse.

Experience and Language Processing

Talkers differ in the words, phrases, and grammatical structures they use, so the ability to adapt to different talkers' or writers' language use may be critical to successful comprehension. Lots of research has examined adaptation to phonetic differences in how talkers produce particular speech sounds, but language processing researchers are only just beginning to consider how (and whether) language comprehension adapts to syntactic and lexical differences. Our lab examines (a) how language processing changes as a result of specific experience (can I adapt to a syntactic construction I haven't seen before?) and (b) how this experience is organized and represented with respect to the environment (do I know that people from Pittsburgh say things one way and people from Boston say things a different way?).


Memory is more than just remembering. Successfully using what we know about the world also requires the right strategies about what to bring to mind and how to do it. Some of our research investigates how effective these processes of metamemory are, and what influences them. For example, how do our retrieval attempts change know when we know whether information was easy or difficult for someone else to remember? And do we know when it is prudent to make a second guess about a question?