Adapting production to comprehension: The explicit mention of instruments

Paula M. Brown, Gary S. Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated whether production is adapted to comprehension. Experiment 1 examined whether or not instruments are explicitly mentioned in accordance with their likelihood of being inferred. Subjects read and retold 20 short stories. An analysis of the transcribed stories revealed that atypical instruments (e.g., an ice pick in a stabbing) were specified significantly more often than typical instruments (e.g., a knife in a stabbing), and instruments that were important in the story were specified slightly more often than unimportant instruments. Experiment 2 examined the mechanism accounting for this phenomenon and revealed that the speaker's beliefs about the listener's knowledge of the instrument had little impact on whether and how the instrument was mentioned. A quantitative model for mentioning instruments was proposed. Instrument concepts can be selected at three points in the production process: (1) during creation of a macroproposition encoding the main idea of a discourse episode, (2) during the elaboration of the macroproposition, and (3) during the monitoring and repair process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-472
Number of pages32
JournalCognitive Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1987
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence


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