Gary Libben (Brock University)

Building and combining your own behavioural psycholinguistic techniques for pure and applied research

As researchers, we often simply “inherit” methodological paradigms from the literature.  Thus, while we may use a lexical decision, priming, naming, or sentence reading task with new stimuli or new groups of participants, it is less common for us to create new versions of these tasks to meet the specific needs of our research or of language users.

Creating customized experimental paradigms for psycholinguistic research can be easy, creative, and inexpensive. Most importantly, it can greatly enhance the impact of your research and enable you to apply research to meet challenges in clinical and language learning domains.

The goal of this course is to provide the conceptual and methodological tools that will provide participants with the underpinnings of the dominant behavioural methods used in psycholinguistic research and to enable participants to modify those methods and to build new ones. Emphasis will be placed on methods for the investigation of lexical processing.

Prerequisites and background preparation

This is an introductory course. No specialized training or background is assumed.

Specific goals

Goal 1:  To provide background to the underlying reasoning behind each of the dominant methods used in behavioural psycholinguistic research. This will include the history and logic behind classic methods such as lexical decision, naming, and priming. Emphasis will be on the nature of task manipulations rather than on the response measures (e.g., eye tracking) or statistical analysis, which are covered in other parts of the STEP program.

Goal 2:  To familiarize the student with the potential uses of less common experimental tasks. These will include game-like paradigms (e.g., the maze task), visual word recognition paradigms (e.g., progressive demasking), auditory word recognition paradigms (e.g., binaural presentation), and written production paradigms (e.g., typing, handwriting).

Goal 3: To provide practical training in how to modify and combine existing techniques to better meet the needs of specific languages, specific participant groups, and specific research questions. We will discuss how data from different paradigms can be used to ‘triangulate’ results and enable study-internal validation of your research.

Goal 4: To provide course participants with the tools to develop their own new experimental paradigms by drawing on recent examples of methodological innovation in the field and to develop applied psycholinguistic techniques that serve as tools for the assessment of improvement of language learning and recovery from language impairment.