Talker-specific predictions during language processing

Rachel Ryskin, Shukhan Ng, Katherine Mimnaugh, Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Language comprehension is shaped by world knowledge. After hearing about “a farm animal,” meanings of typical (“cow”) versus atypical exemplars (“ox”) are more accessible, as evidenced by N400 responses. Moreover, atypical exemplars elicit a larger post-N400 frontal positivity than typical and incongruous (“ivy”) exemplars, indexing the integration of unexpected information. Do listeners adapt this category knowledge to specific talkers? We first replicated typicality effects in the auditory modality. Then, we extended the design to a two-talker context: talkers alternated cueing (Bob: “Susan, name a farm animal”) and answering (Susan: “cow”). Critically, participants first heard interviews in which one talker revealed strong associations with atypical exemplars (Susan works on an ox farm). We observed increased frontal positivity to a typical exemplar (“cow”) said by Susan compared to Bob, indicating participants appreciated that the typical exemplar was atypical for Susan. These results suggest that comprehenders can tailor their expectations to the talker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-812
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage, Cognition and Neuroscience
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2 2020


  • Comprehension
  • ERP
  • category typicality
  • prediction
  • semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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