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The future is now : : effects of planning ahead in word production and comprehension


This dissertation consists of three studies that investigate the extent to which speakers and listeners can and do plan ahead during production and comprehension. Study 1 investigates the attentional requirements of word selection. In two dual-task experiments, subjects categorized tones and then named pictures while word selection difficulty was manipulated using the picture- word interference and cumulative semantic interference paradigms. Results show that word selection requires domain-general attentional resources and that a difference in automaticity between word selection and another process (here, word reading) can affect performance in dual-task as compared with single-task settings. Study 2 investigates whether a difference in automaticity between stages of word production can affect the words that speakers say when they plan their speech in advance. Specifically, if selecting a word from the lexicon requires more attention than activating it as a potential candidate, planning ahead should allow words more time to accrue activation prior to selection, asymmetrically facilitating the production of weakly active words. In two experiments, subjects named pictures that had multiple acceptable names under conditions that manipulated how soon subjects' attentional resources would be available to engage in word selection. Results show that speakers are more likely to use uncommon labels when word selection is delayed by another task, indicating that the attentional requirements of language production processes affect their outcome. Study 3 investigates the predictions that comprehenders make about upcoming words, specifically focusing on whether words that are semantically related to a best sentence completion are pre-activated or inhibited (or neither). In three experiments that used the cumulative semantic interference paradigm, subjects named pictures that were presented either in isolation or after a strongly constraining sentence fragment. Equal interference effects across conditions indicate that words semantically related to the best completion of a sentence are unaffected by the processing of that sentence, and thus suggest that comprehenders only predict best sentence completions. Together, these studies suggest that the manner in which speakers and comprehenders divide their attention between current and upcoming words affects the identity and processing of those upcoming words

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