Examining the Role of General Cognitive Skills in Language Processing: A Window Into Complex Cognition

Kara D. Federmeier, Suzanne R. Jongman, Jakub M. Szewczyk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When we use language, we combine sounds, signs, and letters into words that then form sentences, which together tell a story. Both language production and language comprehension rely on representations that need to be continuously and rapidly activated, selected, and combined. These representations are specific to language, but many processes that regulate their use, such as inhibition of competitors or updating of working memory, are domain-general abilities that apply across different kinds of tasks. Here, we provide an overview of the behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for domain-general abilities underpinning language skills and describe which aspects of production and comprehension draw on such cognitive resources. We discuss how this line of research reveals important similarities between production and comprehension and also helps establish links between language and other cognitive domains. Finally, we argue that studying how domain-general abilities are used in language leads to important insights into the highly dynamic communication between brain networks that is necessary to successfully go from sounds to stories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-582
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Directions in Psychological Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • attention
  • language comprehension
  • language production
  • selection
  • updating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Examining the Role of General Cognitive Skills in Language Processing: A Window Into Complex Cognition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this