The University of Arizona

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Cog Sci Brown Bag Seminar

DateFriday, September 25, 2009
Time12:00 pm
LocationGS 906
SpeakerWilliam Badecker
TitleResearch Professor
AffiliationCognitive Science, University of Arizona

Working Memory in Sentence Production and the Role of Memory Retrievals

Abstract: Theories of language production frequently emphasize the domain specific elements of this complex planning process. In this talk I will focus on how seemingly domain specific aspects of performance may be derived from domain general properties of working memory. Because working memory operates under severe limits on the number of representational elements that can be simultaneously manipulated in its computational
workspace, the fluent performance of this cognitive task relies heavily on the control of working memory retrievals to orchestrate the basic operations underlying sentence planning: combining, comparing and inserting the components of the plan. In order to make this idea maximally explicit, I will focus on a part of this process that has received extensive empirical scrutiny: the production of grammatical agreement. In particular I will argue that the well-studied phenomenon of agreement attraction is a consequence of similarity-based interference during the attempted retrieval of an agreement source (e.g., a subject noun phrase) by normally successful production rules whose local goal is to copy the features of that source onto an agreement target (e.g., a finite verb). The probability of producing such interference-based attraction errors is determined by retrieval-cue overlap with spurious retrieval targets, by the activation-based properties of those spurious targets that can be traced to their own recent retrieval history, and by the control strategies that influence the order and timing of distinct production rules during the larger sentence-formulation process.