Ordinary memory processes in the design of referring expressions

O'Shea, K. J. , Martin, C. R. and Barr, D. J. (2021) Ordinary memory processes in the design of referring expressions. Journal of Memory and Language, 117, 104186. (doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2020.104186)

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How do speakers produce referential descriptions that satisfy addressees’ informational needs during real-time conversation? A recent proposal is that ordinary memory processes can serve as a proxy for the consideration of common ground. But this is only possible if speakers encode and access sufficiently detailed memory representations. We tested this proposal by having speakers describe referents in contexts varying in perceptual similarity to previous contexts in the dialogue. Based on the analysis of a total of 4,817 descriptions from 112 speakers over three experiments, we found little evidence that contextual similarity modulated the informational content of speakers’ descriptions, regardless of whether that similarity was based on configurational cues (Exps. 1 and 2), or on the perceptual experience of interacting with a conversational partner (Exp. 3). In contrast, speakers did modulate their descriptions when their beliefs about the addressee changed, even when the perceptual match between encoding and retrieval contexts was identical. This suggests that the episodic representations accessed during message generation may be too impoverished to serve as an effective proxy for common ground.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work was made possible by a Doctoral Training Fellowship to Kieran J. O’Shea from the UK Economic and Social Research Council.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Barr, Dr Dale and O'Shea, Dr Kieran
Creator Roles:
O'Shea, K.Conceptualization, Methodology, Validation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Resources, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing, Visualization, Funding acquisition
Barr, D.Conceptualization, Methodology, Software, Validation, Formal analysis, Resources, Data curation, Writing – original draft, Writing – review and editing, Visualization, Supervision, Project administration, Funding acquisition
Authors: O'Shea, K. J., Martin, C. R., and Barr, D. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Journal of Memory and Language
ISSN (Online):1096-0821
Published Online:23 November 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 Elsevier
First Published:First published in Journal of Memory and Language 117:104186
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
303166Scottish Graduate School Science Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)Mary Beth KneafseyEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/P000681/1SS - Academic & Student Administration