We conduct many studies with adults of all ages at the CCP and all volunteers receive compensation for their participation. Primarily, research is done with our university students for class credit; however, there are some paid studies that are open to the general public. Some studies require specific age groups or have other restrictions. If you are interested in participating in a study, please click here. To see an overview of our facilities and the kind of equipment we use in our experiments, please click here. There is a lot of ongoing research in the CCP and below we have highlighted a few of our recent studies.
EMBODIED SIMULATIONS & FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE
This research project investigates the role that embodied simulations might play in figurative language processing. Embodied simulations are a relatively new phenomenon in psycholinguistics. They involve the brain’s language facilities usurping base motor and sensory control and processing areas to support language production and comprehension. As an example, when a person produces or comprehends the spoken or written sentence, “The woman pushed the cart across the floor”, that person’s motor cortex demonstrates neural activation patterns as if the person were actually pushing a cart him- or herself. The only major difference in the case of simulations is that the person’s muscles do not respond to the motor cortex activity, similar to what occurs in REM sleep dreaming. The patterns of neural activation are very similar. It thus appears that we use our generic embodied experiences of physical activities like pushing carts, stored in the form of neural programs, to help us understand language like the above example. The same holds for certain sensory neural programs. This is a vastly different way of thinking about language processing than schema, representations or lexical activation, which are much more abstract and much less embodied. Our project extends this area to investigate how much these embodied simulations are involved in figurative kinds of language.
EMOTIONAL VERBS & GENDER BIAS
This project investigates how emotional properties of verbs may affect our mental representation of characters and events during reading. Specifically, we are investigating how the emotional dominance (the degree of personal control one feels) and emotional valence (the level of positivity/negativity one feels) of verbs are able to affect the interpretation of semantic roles and the perception of character gender. Our findings have suggested that male characters are more strongly associated to highly dominant and negatively valenced verbs (provoke, strangle, coerce) while female characters are more strongly associated to low dominance and high valence verbs (worship, rouse, admire). Participants incorporated information regarding the emotional dimensions of dominance and valence into their mental representation of the depicted event and associated it with information attributed to the stereotypical gender of the role name. This suggests that readers rapidly access verb-based emotional dominance information and use that information in the interpretation of a gender marked pronoun.
LANGUAGE PROCESSING ACROSS THE LIFESPAN
Research in aging suggests that when we get older, many of our cognitive skills, including language comprehension and production, start showing signs of difficulty. Yet, we are far from understanding how language processing develops from childhood on and how/whether it changes with cognitive aging. Together with researchers from Brock University, we take psycholinguistics closer to where language processing normally happens – outside the lab – to look into how people in different age groups cope with ambiguity and complexity in lexicon and discourse.
This is a descriptive study that looks at spontaneous speech production when two individuals come together to discuss the same topic. Conversations are both audio- and video-recorded in order to capture both linguistic and extra-linguistic (e.g. gesture, facial expressions) information that participants might generate and integrate into a dialogue.