Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


An Analysis of Working Memory in Audience Design




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Speakers in conversations must often keep track of which referents in the world they share with which conversational partners, and implement this knowledge into utterance plans. Based on past language production research, we expected that working memory would affect this process of audience design. In a referential communication task, speakers provided descriptions of some objects to one partner and other objects to a different partner. We measured whether speakers adjusted their utterances and eye movement patterns when providing descriptions to partners with whom they shared common ground. We also measured individual differences in verbal and spatial working memory. Results indicate that speakers adjusted their utterances and eye movements according to the needs of their particular addressees. However, working memory did not predict the extent to which speakers made such adjustments. We discuss why individual differences in working memory may not affect the type of audience design required by our task.

Conference Name

Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society

Conference Location

St. Louis, MO

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