How Cognitive Load Influences Speakers' Choice of Referring Expressions

Vogels, J., Krahmer, E. & Maes, A., 1-Aug-2015, In : Journal of Cognitive Science. 39, 6, p. 1396-1418 23 p.

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  • How Cognitive Load Influences Speakers’ Choice ofReferring Expressions

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We report on two experiments investigating the effect of an increased cognitive load for speakers on the choice of referring expressions. Speakers produced story continuations to addressees, in which they referred to characters that were either salient or non-salient in the discourse. In Experiment 1, referents that were salient for the speaker were non-salient for the addressee, and vice versa. In Experiment 2, all discourse information was shared between speaker and addressee. Cognitive load was manipulated by the presence or absence of a secondary task for the speaker. The results show that speakers under load are more likely to produce pronouns, at least when referring to less salient referents. We take this finding as evidence that speakers under load have more difficulties taking discourse salience into account, resulting in the use of expressions that are more economical for themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1396-1418
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Cognitive Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1-Aug-2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Accessibility, Cognitive load, Language production, Perspective taking, Pronouns, Reference, LANGUAGE PRODUCTION, AUDIENCE DESIGN, WORKING-MEMORY, DISCOURSE, PRONOUNS, HYPOTHESIS, ANAPHORA, DIALOGUE

ID: 61563935