Flexible predictions during listening comprehension: Speaker reliability affects anticipatory processes
Hoversten, Liv J.
Traxler, Matthew J.
Swaab, Tamara Y.
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Trevor Brothers, Shruti Dave, Liv J. Hoversten, Matthew J. Traxler, Tamara Y. Swaab, Flexible predictions during listening comprehension: Speaker reliability affects anticipatory processes, Neuropsychologia, Volume 135, 2019, 107225, ISSN 0028-3932, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2019.107225.
During listening comprehension, the identification of individual words can be strongly influenced by properties of the preceding context. While sentence context can facilitate both behavioral and neural responses, it is unclear whether these effects can be attributed to the pre-activation of lexico-semantic features or the facilitated integration of contextually congruent words. Moreover, little is known about how statistics of the broader language environment, or information about the current speaker, might shape these facilitation effects. In the present study, we measured neural responses to predictable and unpredictable words as participants listened to sentences for comprehension. Critically, we manipulated the reliability of each speaker’s utterances, such that individual speakers either tended to complete sentences with words that were highly predictable (reliable speaker) or with words that were unpredictable but still plausible (unreliable speaker). As expected, the amplitude of the N400 was reduced for locally predictable words, but, critically, these context effects were also modulated by speaker identity. Sentences from a reliable speaker showed larger facilitation effects with an earlier onset, suggesting that listeners engaged in enhanced anticipatory processing when a speaker’s behavior was more predictable. This finding suggests that listeners can implicitly track the reliability of predictive cues in their environment and use these statistics to adaptively regulate predictive processing.