Week 8 reading

Confederate priming

The plan for week 8

This week we are looking at Loy & Smith (2020), which is an under-revision paper by my postdoc Jia Loy and me. This paper reports a bunch of experiments (5 total in this version, although we have to add more in the revision) where participants interact with a partner on a picture-description task where they take turns describing pictures, e.g. of a burglar handing a cake to a soldier. Unbeknownst (usually) to the genuine participants, one of the two people in the interaction is a confederate (in the sense of “accomplice”) of the experimenter, i.e. someone who is working with the experimenter and is producing descriptions according to a script. This confederate priming technique allows us to control the structure of the descriptions produced by one interlocutor and see how that affects the descriptions used by the other interlocutor, the genuine participant. The standard result in these paradigms is that participants are influenced to produce PO (prepositional object, e.g. “the burglar hands the cake to the soldier”) or DO (double object, e.g. “the burglar hands the soldier the cake”) descriptions based on whether the confederate used PO or DO descriptions; if the confederate produces a PO the participant is more likely to do so on their subsequent trial. We were interested in whether this effect would be modulated by the perceived linguistic knowledge of the confederate; in particular, if you are interacting with a non-native speaker, are you influenced by their productions more (you have uncertainty about how their grammar of English works, their actual behaviour in interaction is the best evidence you can get, and on the assumption that you want them to understand you it makes sense to use the same constructions they are using) or less (because you discount their linguistic behaviour somewhat, or try to model ‘correct’ behaviour for them) than you would be by a native speaker. We ended up running studies both in the lab and online, which in both cases show effects of confederate non-nativeness, but in opposite directions - our lab participants adapted to non-natives more, our online participants less.

As usual, in this week’s practical you’ll get a chance to look at a similar experiment in jsPsych, which will involve audio stimuli again but also the infrastructure to record audio from your participants via their browser.

Reading tasks for this week


This is a preprint of a paper that is currently under revision (i.e. we got an initial round of reviewer reports, we are making some revisions to the paper, then it’ll go back to the reviewers for another look).

A couple of things to note:


All aspects of this work are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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