The president gave her inauguration speech: Explicit belief and implicit expectations in language production and comprehension

30.11.2016 - 17:00
30.11.2016 - 19:00

Dr. Titus von der Malsburg

Visiting Professor for Psycholinguistics & Neurolinguistics, Potsdam University

Prediction in language processing reflects a broad range of knowledge and beliefs about the world, including both typical states of affairs and contextually variable information. This breadth is exemplified in gender processing where violated gender stereotypes (e.g., referring to a surgeon as female) elicit surprise but comprehenders can accommodate to nonstereotypical gender, at least within a discourse. The current US Presidential campaign affords us a unique opportunity to track the evolution of gender stereotypes implicit in language processing as the prospects of the candidates rise and fall. In three large-scale experiments (N>10K) conducted throughout the presidential race, we track changes in the perceived chance of a female president (Expt 1) and the impact of these beliefs on the production of gendered pronouns (Expt 2) and the comprehension of such pronouns in short paragraphs of text (Expt 3). Results obtained around the California Democratic primary show that short-term changes do have immediate effects on the production of pronouns (male, female, singular “they”), whereas comprehension seems to be driven primarily by long-term gender stereotypes. I will discuss these and other results and also highlight some interesting methodological insights gained during this project.