Publications

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

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

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

@inproceedings{sikos2021speak,
title = {Speak before you listen: Pragmatic reasoning in multi-trial language games},
author = {Les Sikos and Noortje Venhuizen and Heiner Drenhaus and Matthew W. Crocker},
year = {2021},
date = {2021},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society},
pubstate = {forthcoming},
type = {inproceedings}
}

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Project:   C3

Sikos, Les; Stein, Katharina; Staudte, Maria

A rose by any other verb: The effect of expectations and word category on processing effort in situated sentence comprehension Journal Article

Frontiers in Psychology, 2021.

Recent work has shown that linguistic and visual contexts jointly modulate linguistic expectancy and, thus, the processing effort for a (more or less) expected critical word (Ankener et al., 2018; Tourtouri et al., 2019; Staudte et al., 2020). According to these findings, uncertainty about the upcoming referent in a visually-situated sentence can be reduced by exploiting the selectional restrictions of a preceding word (e.g., a verb or an adjective), which then reduces processing effort on the critical word (e.g., a referential noun). Interestingly, however, no such modulation was observed in these studies on the expectation-generating word itself. The goal of the current study is to investigate whether the reduction of uncertainty (i.e., the generation of expectations) simply does not modulate processing effort — or whether the particular subject-verb-object (SVO) sentence structure used in these studies (which emphasizes the referential nature of the noun as direct pointer to visually co-present objects) accounts for the observed pattern. To test these questions, the current design reverses the functional roles of nouns and verbs by using sentence constructions in which the noun reduces uncertainty about upcoming verbs, and the verb provides the disambiguating and reference-resolving piece of information. Experiment~1 (a Visual World Paradigm study) and Experiment~2 (a Grammaticality Maze study) both replicate the effect found in Ankener et al. (2018) of visually-situated context on the word which uniquely identifies the referent, albeit on the verb in the current study. Results on the noun, where uncertainty is reduced and expectations are generated in the current design, were mixed and were most likely influenced by design decisions specific to each experiment. These results show that processing of the reference-resolving word — whether it be a noun or a verb — reliably benefits from the prior linguistic and visual information that lead to the generation of concrete expectations.

@article{Sikos2021b,
title = {A rose by any other verb: The effect of expectations and word category on processing effort in situated sentence comprehension},
author = {Les Sikos and Katharina Stein and Maria Staudte},
url = {https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661898/full},
doi = {https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.661898},
year = {2021},
date = {2021-05-28},
journal = {Frontiers in Psychology},
abstract = {Recent work has shown that linguistic and visual contexts jointly modulate linguistic expectancy and, thus, the processing effort for a (more or less) expected critical word (Ankener et al., 2018; Tourtouri et al., 2019; Staudte et al., 2020). According to these findings, uncertainty about the upcoming referent in a visually-situated sentence can be reduced by exploiting the selectional restrictions of a preceding word (e.g., a verb or an adjective), which then reduces processing effort on the critical word (e.g., a referential noun). Interestingly, however, no such modulation was observed in these studies on the expectation-generating word itself. The goal of the current study is to investigate whether the reduction of uncertainty (i.e., the generation of expectations) simply does not modulate processing effort --- or whether the particular subject-verb-object (SVO) sentence structure used in these studies (which emphasizes the referential nature of the noun as direct pointer to visually co-present objects) accounts for the observed pattern. To test these questions, the current design reverses the functional roles of nouns and verbs by using sentence constructions in which the noun reduces uncertainty about upcoming verbs, and the verb provides the disambiguating and reference-resolving piece of information. Experiment~1 (a Visual World Paradigm study) and Experiment~2 (a Grammaticality Maze study) both replicate the effect found in Ankener et al. (2018) of visually-situated context on the word which uniquely identifies the referent, albeit on the verb in the current study. Results on the noun, where uncertainty is reduced and expectations are generated in the current design, were mixed and were most likely influenced by design decisions specific to each experiment. These results show that processing of the reference-resolving word --- whether it be a noun or a verb --- reliably benefits from the prior linguistic and visual information that lead to the generation of concrete expectations.},
pubstate = {published},
type = {article}
}

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Project:   C3

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

Reevaluating pragmatic reasoning in language games Journal Article

PLOS ONE, 2021.

The results of a highly influential study that tested the predictions of the Rational Speech Act (RSA) model suggest that (a) listeners use pragmatic reasoning in one-shot web-based referential communication games despite the artificial, highly constrained, and minimally interactive nature of the task, and (b) that RSA accurately captures this behavior. In this work, we reevaluate the contribution of the pragmatic reasoning formalized by RSA in explaining listener behavior by comparing RSA to a baseline literal listener model that is only driven by literal word meaning and the prior probability of referring to an object. Across three experiments we observe only modest evidence of pragmatic behavior in one-shot web-based language games, and only under very limited circumstances. We find that although RSA provides a strong fit to listener responses, it does not perform better than the baseline literal listener model. Our results suggest that while participants playing the role of the Speaker are informative in these one-shot web-based reference games, participants playing the role of the Listener only rarely take this Speaker behavior into account to reason about the intended referent. In addition, we show that RSA’s fit is primarily due to a combination of non-pragmatic factors, perhaps the most surprising of which is that in the majority of conditions that are amenable to pragmatic reasoning, RSA (accurately) predicts that listeners will behave non-pragmatically. This leads us to conclude that RSA’s strong overall correlation with human behavior in one-shot web-based language games does not reflect listener’s pragmatic reasoning about informative speakers.

@article{Sikos2021,
title = {Reevaluating pragmatic reasoning in language games},
author = {Les Sikos and Noortje Venhuizen and Heiner Drenhaus and Matthew W. Crocker},
url = {https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0248388},
doi = {https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0248388},
year = {2021},
date = {2021-03-17},
journal = {PLOS ONE},
abstract = {The results of a highly influential study that tested the predictions of the Rational Speech Act (RSA) model suggest that (a) listeners use pragmatic reasoning in one-shot web-based referential communication games despite the artificial, highly constrained, and minimally interactive nature of the task, and (b) that RSA accurately captures this behavior. In this work, we reevaluate the contribution of the pragmatic reasoning formalized by RSA in explaining listener behavior by comparing RSA to a baseline literal listener model that is only driven by literal word meaning and the prior probability of referring to an object. Across three experiments we observe only modest evidence of pragmatic behavior in one-shot web-based language games, and only under very limited circumstances. We find that although RSA provides a strong fit to listener responses, it does not perform better than the baseline literal listener model. Our results suggest that while participants playing the role of the Speaker are informative in these one-shot web-based reference games, participants playing the role of the Listener only rarely take this Speaker behavior into account to reason about the intended referent. In addition, we show that RSA’s fit is primarily due to a combination of non-pragmatic factors, perhaps the most surprising of which is that in the majority of conditions that are amenable to pragmatic reasoning, RSA (accurately) predicts that listeners will behave non-pragmatically. This leads us to conclude that RSA’s strong overall correlation with human behavior in one-shot web-based language games does not reflect listener’s pragmatic reasoning about informative speakers.},
pubstate = {published},
type = {article}
}

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Project:   C3

Tourtouri, Elli; Delogu, Francesca; Sikos, Les; Crocker, Matthew W.

Rational over-specification in visually-situated comprehension and production Journal Article

Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 3, pp. 175-202, 2019.

Contrary to the Gricean maxims of quantity (Grice, in: Cole, Morgan (eds) Syntax and semantics: speech acts, vol III, pp 41-58, Academic Press, New York, 1975), it has been repeatedly shown that speakers often include redundant information in their utterances (over-specifications). Previous research on referential communication has long debated whether this redundancy is the result of speaker-internal or addressee-oriented processes, while it is also unclear whether referential redundancy hinders or facilitates comprehension.

We present an information-theoretic explanation for the use of over-specification in visually-situated communication, which quantifies the amount of uncertainty regarding the referent as entropy (Shannon in Bell Syst Tech J 5:10, https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01338.x, 1948). Examining both the comprehension and production of over-specifications, we present evidence that (a) listeners’ processing is facilitated by the use of redundancy as well as by a greater reduction of uncertainty early on in the utterance, and (b) that at least for some speakers, listeners’ processing concerns influence their encoding of over-specifications: Speakers were more likely to use redundant adjectives when these adjectives reduced entropy to a higher degree than adjectives necessary for target identification.

@article{Tourtouri2019,
title = {Rational over-specification in visually-situated comprehension and production},
author = {Elli Tourtouri and Francesca Delogu and Les Sikos and Matthew W. Crocker},
url = {https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs41809-019-00032-6},
doi = {https://doi.org/10.1007/s41809-019-00032-6},
year = {2019},
date = {2019},
journal = {Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science},
pages = {175-202},
volume = {3},
number = {2},
abstract = {Contrary to the Gricean maxims of quantity (Grice, in: Cole, Morgan (eds) Syntax and semantics: speech acts, vol III, pp 41-58, Academic Press, New York, 1975), it has been repeatedly shown that speakers often include redundant information in their utterances (over-specifications). Previous research on referential communication has long debated whether this redundancy is the result of speaker-internal or addressee-oriented processes, while it is also unclear whether referential redundancy hinders or facilitates comprehension. We present an information-theoretic explanation for the use of over-specification in visually-situated communication, which quantifies the amount of uncertainty regarding the referent as entropy (Shannon in Bell Syst Tech J 5:10, https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1538-7305.1948.tb01338.x, 1948). Examining both the comprehension and production of over-specifications, we present evidence that (a) listeners’ processing is facilitated by the use of redundancy as well as by a greater reduction of uncertainty early on in the utterance, and (b) that at least for some speakers, listeners’ processing concerns influence their encoding of over-specifications: Speakers were more likely to use redundant adjectives when these adjectives reduced entropy to a higher degree than adjectives necessary for target identification.},
pubstate = {published},
type = {article}
}

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Projects:   A1 C3

Tourtouri, Elli; Sikos, Les; Crocker, Matthew W.

Referential Entropy influences Overspecification: Evidence from Production Inproceedings

31st Annual CUNY Sentence Processing Conference, UC Davis, Davis CA, USA, 2018.

@inproceedings{Tourtourietal2018a,
title = {Referential Entropy influences Overspecification: Evidence from Production},
author = {Elli Tourtouri and Les Sikos and Matthew W. Crocker},
year = {2018},
date = {2018},
booktitle = {31st Annual CUNY Sentence Processing Conference},
publisher = {UC Davis},
address = {Davis CA, USA},
pubstate = {published},
type = {inproceedings}
}

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Project:   C3

Tourtouri, Elli; Sikos, Les; Crocker, Matthew W.

Referential entropy influences the production of overspecifications Inproceedings

10th Dubrovnik Conference on Cognitive Science, Communication, Pragmatics, and Theory of Mind (DuCog), University of Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 2018.

@inproceedings{Tourtourietal2018b,
title = {Referential entropy influences the production of overspecifications},
author = {Elli Tourtouri and Les Sikos and Matthew W. Crocker},
year = {2018},
date = {2018},
booktitle = {10th Dubrovnik Conference on Cognitive Science, Communication, Pragmatics, and Theory of Mind (DuCog)},
publisher = {University of Zagreb},
address = {Dubrovnik, Croatia},
pubstate = {published},
type = {inproceedings}
}

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Project:   C3

Sikos, Les; Greenberg, Clayton; Drenhaus, Heiner; Crocker, Matthew W.

Information density of encodings: The role of syntactic variation in comprehension Inproceedings

Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society(CogSci 2017), pp. 3168-3173, Austin, Texas, USA, 2017.

@inproceedings{Sikos2017,
title = {Information density of encodings: The role of syntactic variation in comprehension},
author = {Les Sikos and Clayton Greenberg and Heiner Drenhaus and Matthew W. Crocker},
year = {2017},
date = {2017},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society(CogSci 2017)},
pages = {3168-3173},
address = {Austin, Texas, USA},
pubstate = {published},
type = {inproceedings}
}

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Project:   C3

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