Sikos, Les; Venhuizen, Noortje; Drenhaus, Heiner; Crocker, Matthew W.

Speak before you listen: Pragmatic reasoning in multi-trial language games

Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, 43, 2021.

Rational Speech Act theory (Frank & Goodman, 2012) has been successfully applied in numerous communicative settings, including studies using one-shot web-based language games. Several follow-up studies of the latter, however, suggest that listeners may not behave as pragmatically as originally suggested in those tasks. We investigate whether, in such reference games, listeners’ pragmatic reasoning about an informative speaker is improved by greater exposure to the task, and/or prior experience with being a speaker in this task. While we find limited evidence that increased exposure results in more pragmatic responses, listeners do show increased pragmatic reasoning after playing the role of the speaker. Moreover, we find that only in the Speaker-first condition, participant’s tendency to be an informative speaker predicts their degree of pragmatic behavior as a listener. These findings demonstrate that, in these settings, experience as a speaker enhances the ability of listeners to reason pragmatically, as modeled by RSA.