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Urbach, T. P., DeLong, K. A., & Kutas, M. (2015). Quantifiers are incrementally interpreted in context, more than less. Journal of Memory and Language, 83, 79-96.
Language interpretation is often assumed to be incremental. However, our studies of quantifier expressions in isolated sentences found N400 event-related brain potential (ERP) evidence for partial but not full immediate quantifier interpretation (Urbach & Kutas, 2010). Here we tested similar quantifier expressions in pragmatically supporting discourse contexts (Alex was an unusual toddler. Most/Few kids prefer sweets/vegetables …) while participants made plausibility judgments (Experiment 1) or read for comprehension (Experiment 2). Control Experiments 3A (plausibility) and 3B (comprehension) removed the discourse contexts. Quantifiers always modulated typical and/or atypical word N400 amplitudes. However, the real-time N400 effects only in Experiment 2 mirrored offline quantifier and typicality crossover interaction effects for plausibility ratings and cloze probabilities. We conclude that quantifier expressions can be interpreted fully and immediately, though pragmatic and task variables appear to impact the speed and/or depth of quantifier interpretation.

Research Opportunities (199s)
  • Speech Production Adaptation to Individual Speakers
    When speaking to another person, we tailor our speech production based on information we know about that person: for example, you probably don't use the same vocabulary with a professor as you do with a 2-year-old. This project will investigate how specific this adaptation in the speech production system is. ...
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  • The emergence of space-time mapping systems through cultural transmission
    The Embodied Cognition lab is interested in understanding cognition from the perspective of the embodied mind, investigating how the peculiarities of our bodies and how our experiences in and interactions with the world around us give rise to our understanding of abstract concepts such as time. In this particular study, ...
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  • Social Cognition in Dolphins
    Bottlenose dolphins are large-brained, social mammals that have an elaborate vocal repertoire which is, as yet, poorly understood. Using extensive audio-video recordings of a dolphin community at Brookfield Zoo, Chicago, we are investigating communication and social cognition in these animals. Interns on this project will be trained to score video ...
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  • Thinking and Driving
    Vehicles are collecting more and more information that can in principle help a driver control a vehicle more safely. But when is more information helpful, and when is it distracting? The Language and Cognition Lab ( is looking for outstanding students interested in getting involved with experimental research on driving ...
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