Partner-specific adaptation in disfluency processing

AbstractDisfluency leads listeners to expect an upcoming reference to unfamiliar objects. In two experiments, we examined if this expectation is adapted based on the way disfluency has been used in the discourse. Participants listened to instructions to look at an object on a screen containing familiar and novel images. We manipulated the co-occurrence of disfluency and reference to novel vs. familiar objects. In the predictive condition, disfluent expressions referred to novel objects, and fluent expressions referred to familiar objects. In the non-predictive condition, fluent and disfluent trials referred to either familiar or novel objects. Participants’ gaze revealed that listeners more readily predicted familiar images for fluent trials and novel images for disfluent trials in the predictive condition than in the non-predictive condition. Listeners adapted their expectations about upcoming words based on recent experience with disfluency. Disfluency is not invariably processed, but is a cue adapted within the local context.

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