Edward Gibson

Edward Gibson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology | MIT · Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

About

216
Publications
58,475
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13,707
Citations
Citations since 2017
58 Research Items
6075 Citations
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201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,200
201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,200
201720182019202020212022202302004006008001,0001,200

Publications

Publications (216)
Article
The "depth-charge" sentence, No head injury is too trivial to be ignored, is often interpreted as "no matter how trivial head injuries are, we should not ignore them" while the literal meaning is the opposite - "we should ignore them". Four decades of research have failed to resolve the source of this entrenched semantic illusion. Here we adopt the...
Article
Spatial cognition is central to human behavior, but the way people conceptualize space varies within and across groups for unknown reasons. Here, we found that adults from an indigenous Bolivian group used systematically different spatial reference frames on different axes, according to known differences in their discriminability: In both verbal an...
Article
Full-text available
Background Speech of individuals with non-fluent, including Broca’s, aphasia is often characterized as “agrammatic” because their output mostly consists of nouns and, to a lesser extent, verbs and lacks function words, like articles and prepositions, and correct morphological endings. Among the earliest accounts of agrammatic output in the early 19...
Article
Full-text available
A major goal of psycholinguistic theory is to account for the cognitive constraints limiting the speed and ease of language comprehension and production. Wide-ranging evidence demonstrates a key role for linguistic expectations: A word’s predictability, as measured by the information-theoretic quantity of surprisal, is a major determinant of proces...
Article
To understand language, we must infer structured meanings from real-time auditory or visual signals. Researchers have long focused on word-by-word structure building in working memory as a mechanism that might enable this feat. However, some have argued that language processing does not typically involve rich word-by-word structure building, and/or...
Preprint
Speech of individuals with non-fluent, or Broca’s, aphasia is often characterized as “agrammatic” because their output mostly consists of nouns and, to a lesser extent, verbs and lacks function words, like articles and prepositions, and correct morphological endings. Among the earliest accounts of agrammatic output in the early 1900s was the “econo...
Article
Spoken language production involves selecting and assembling words and syntactic structures to convey one’s message. Here we probe this process by analyzing natural language productions of individuals with primary progressive aphasia (PPA) and healthy individuals. Based on prior neuropsychological observations, we hypothesize that patients who have...
Article
Previous findings suggest that mentally representing exact numbers larger than four depends on a verbal count routine (e.g., “one, two, three . . .”). However, these findings are controversial because they rely on comparisons across radically different languages and cultures. We tested the role of language in number concepts within a single populat...
Preprint
Full-text available
The combinatorial power of language has historically been argued to be enabled by syntax: rules that allow words to combine hierarchically to convey complex meanings. But how important are these rules in practice? We performed a broad-coverage cross-linguistic investigation of the importance of grammatical cues for interpretation. First, English an...
Article
Ross (1967) observed that “island” structures like “Who do you think [ NP the gift from __] prompted the rumor?” or “Who did you hear [ NP the statement [ S that the CEO promoted __]]?” are not acceptable, despite having what seem to be plausible meanings in some contexts. Ross (1967) and Chomsky (1973) hypothesized that the source of the unaccepta...
Preprint
People are able to understand language in challenging settings which often require them to correct for speaker errors, environmental noise, and perceptual unreliability. To account for these abilities, it has recently been proposed that people are adapted to correct for noise during language comprehension, via rational Bayesian inference. In the pr...
Preprint
Full-text available
A standard view of human language processing is that comprehenders build richly structured mental representations of natural language utterances, word by word, using computationally costly memory operations supported by domain-general working memory resources. However, three core claims of this view have been questioned, with some prior work arguin...
Article
Full-text available
Going back to Ross (1967) and Chomsky (1973), researchers have sought to understand what conditions permit long-distance dependencies in language, such as between the wh-word what and the verb bought in the sentence 'What did John think that Mary bought?'. In the present work, we attempt to understand why changing the main verb in wh-questions affe...
Article
What role do domain-general executive functions play in human language comprehension? To address this question, we examine the relationship between behavioral measures of comprehension and neural activity in the domain-general “multiple demand” (MD) network, which has been linked to constructs like attention, working memory, inhibitory control, and...
Article
Recent evidence suggests that language processing is well-adapted to noise in the input (e.g., spelling or speech errors, misreading or mishearing) and that comprehenders readily correct the input via rational inference over possible intended sentences given probable noise corruptions. In the current study, we probed the processing of noisy linguis...
Article
Full-text available
It is now a common practice to compare models of human language processing by comparing how well they predict behavioral and neural measures of processing difficulty, such as reading times, on corpora of rich naturalistic linguistic materials. However, many of these corpora, which are based on naturally-occurring text, do not contain many of the lo...
Preprint
This work applies a language design perspective to the lexicon. It reviews and analyzes a recent body of work in cognitive science and linguistics that uses ideas from computer science, specifically information theory, to explore how structural features of lexicons can be explained by principles of efficient communication. It pays particular attent...
Article
In order to explain the unacceptability of certain long-distance dependencies – termed syntactic islands by Ross (1967) – syntacticians proposed constraints on long-distance dependencies which are universal and purely syntactic and thus not dependent on the meaning of the construction (Chomsky, 1977; Chomsky, 1995 a.o.). This predicts that these co...
Preprint
Full-text available
What role do domain-general executive functions play in human language comprehension? To address this question, we examine the relationship between behavioral measures of comprehension and neural activity in the domain-general "multiple demand" (MD) network, which has been linked to constructs like attention, working memory, inhibitory control, and...
Article
Full-text available
A key component of research on human sentence processing is to characterize the processing difficulty associated with the comprehension of words in context. Models that explain and predict this difficulty can be broadly divided into two kinds, expectation‐based and memory‐based. In this work, we present a new model of incremental sentence processin...
Preprint
Full-text available
Models that aim to explain electrophysiological responses to linguistic processing (e.g., the N400 and P600 components) typically assume that the representation of linguistic input is error-free. Recent evidence suggests that language processing mechanisms are well-adapted to input corrupted by noise (e.g., speech errors, mishearing) and readily co...
Article
2020 Printed with the permission of Richard Futrell, Roger P. Levy, & Edward Gibson. This work focuses on explaining both grammatical universals of word order and quantitative word-order preferences in usage by means of a simple efficiency principle: dependency locality. In its simplest form, dependency locality holds that words linked in a syntact...
Article
Languages vary in their number of color terms. A widely accepted theory proposes that languages evolve, acquiring color terms in a stereotyped sequence. This theory, by Berlin and Kay (BK), is supported by analyzing best exemplars ("focal colors") of basic color terms in the World Color Survey (WCS) of 110 languages. But the instructions of the WCS...
Article
There is an ongoing debate, both in philosophy and psychology, as to whether people are able to automatically infer what others may know, or whether they can only derive belief inferences by deploying cognitive resources. Evidence from laboratory tasks, often involving false beliefs or visual-perspective taking, has suggested that belief inferences...
Article
Cognitive science applies diverse tools and perspectives to study human language. Recently, an exciting body of work has examined linguistic phenomena through the lens of efficiency in usage: what otherwise puzzling features of language find explanation in formal accounts of how language might be optimized for communication and learning? Here, we r...
Preprint
Cognitive science applies diverse tools and perspectives to study human language. Recently, an exciting body of work has examined linguistic phenomena through the lens of efficiency in usage: what otherwise puzzling features of language find explanation in formal accounts of how language might be optimized for communication and learning? Here, we r...
Article
Cognitive science applies diverse tools and perspectives to study human language. Recently, an exciting body of work has examined linguistic phenomena through the lens of efficiency in usage: what otherwise puzzling features of language find explanation in formal accounts of how language might be optimized for communication and learning? Here, we r...
Article
When we receive information in the presence of other people, are we sensitive to what they do or do not understand? In two event-related-potential experiments, participants read implausible sentences (e.g., "The girl had a little beak") in contexts that rendered them plausible (e.g., "The girl dressed up as a canary for Halloween"). No semantic-pro...
Preprint
Full-text available
There is an ongoing debate, both in philosophy and psychology, as to whether people are able to automatically infer what others may know, or they can only derive belief inferences by deploying cognitive resources. Evidence from laboratory tasks, often involving false beliefs or visual- perspective taking, has suggested that belief inferences are co...
Article
Full-text available
Zipf famously stated that, if natural language lexicons are structured for efficient communication, the words that are used the most frequently should require the least effort. This observation explains the famous finding that the most frequent words in a language tend to be short. A related prediction is that, even within words of the same length,...
Article
In everyday communication, speakers make errors and produce language in a noisy environment. Recent work suggests that comprehenders possess cognitive mechanisms for dealing with noise in the linguistic signal: a noisy-channel model. A key parameter of these models is the noise model: the comprehender's implicit model of how noise affects utterance...
Article
Background: Seasons affect many social, economic, and biological outcomes, particularly in low-resource settings, and some studies suggest that birth season affects child growth. Aim: To study a predictor of stunting that has received limited attention: birth season. Subjects and methods: This study uses cross-sectional data collected during 2008 i...
Preprint
In most languages, most of the syntactic dependency relations found in any given sentenceare PROJECTIVE: the word–word dependencies in the sentence do not cross each other. Somesyntactic dependency relations, however, are NON-PROJECTIVE: some of their word–worddependencies cross each other. Non-projective dependencies are both rarer and more comput...
Preprint
What makes a word memorable? Prior research has identified numerous factors: word frequency, concreteness, imageability, and valence have all been shown to affect recognition performance. One important dimension that has not received much attention is the nature of the relationship between words and meanings. Under the hypothesis that words are enc...
Preprint
A key component of most models of pragmatics is that speakers consider more than one way of conveying a message, and how informative each version is in context. Theories of pragmatics, and particularly pragmatic development, are hampered by the fact that while we can often observe what a participant does (either as a speaker or a listener), we can...
Article
Full-text available
Piazza et al. reported a strong correlation between education and approximate number sense (ANS) acuity in a remote Amazonian population, suggesting that symbolic and nonsymbolic numerical thinking mutually enhance one another over in mathematics instruction. But Piazza et al. ran their task using a computer display, which may have exaggerated the...
Article
Branigan & Pickering (B&P) claim that the success of structural priming as a method should “end the current reliance on acceptability judgments.” Structural priming is an interesting and useful phenomenon, but we are dubious that the effect is powerful enough to test many detailed claims about specific points of syntactic theory.
Article
How do we decide what to say to ensure our meanings will be understood? The Rational Speech Act model (RSA; Frank & Goodman, 2012 ) asserts that speakers plan what to say by comparing the informativity of words in a particular context. We present the first example of an RSA model of sentence-level (who-did-what-to-whom) meanings. In these contexts,...
Article
Full-text available
Significance The number of color terms varies drastically across languages. Yet despite these differences, certain terms (e.g., red) are prevalent, which has been attributed to perceptual salience. This work provides evidence for an alternative hypothesis: The use of color terms depends on communicative needs. Across languages, from the hunter-gath...
Article
It is now a common practice to compare models of human language processing by predicting participant reactions (such as reading times) to corpora consisting of rich naturalistic linguistic materials. However, many of the corpora used in these studies are based on naturalistic text and thus do not contain many of the low-frequency syntactic construc...
Preprint
How do we decide what to say to ensure our meanings will be understood? The Rational Speech Act model (RSA, Frank & Goodman, 2012) asserts that speakers plan what to say by comparing the informativity of words in a particular context. We present the first example of an RSA model of sentence level (who-did-what-to-whom) meanings. In these contexts,...
Article
Hackl, Koster-Hale & Varvoutis (2012; hereafter HKV) provide data that suggest that in a null context, antecedent-contained deletion (ACD) relative clause structures modifying a quantified object noun phrase (NP) are easier to process than those modifying a definite object NP. HKV argue that this pattern of results supports a quantifier-raising (QR...
Article
Recent evidence suggests that cognitive pressures associated with language acquisition and use could affect the organization of the lexicon. On one hand, consistent with noisy channel models of language (e.g., Levy, 2008), the phonological distance between wordforms should be maximized to avoid perceptual confusability (a pressure for dispersion)....
Article
With the support of the comprehensive review in Liu et al. [14], we consider dependency distance minimization to be firmly established as a quantitative property of syntactic trees. In this comment, we consider future empirical and theoretical directions for this concept, including a recent information-theoretic reinterpretation of dependency local...
Article
Full-text available
Two-and-a-half-year-olds normally fail standard false-belief tasks. In the classic version, children have to say where a protagonist will look for an apple that, unbeknownst to her, was moved to a new location. Children under 4 generally predict that the protagonist will look for her apple in its current location, rather than where she left it. Set...
Article
Being a nonnative speaker of a language poses challenges. Individuals often feel embarrassed by the errors they make when talking in their second language. However, here we report an advantage of being a nonnative speaker: Native speakers give foreign-accented speakers the benefit of the doubt when interpreting their utterances; as a result, appare...
Preprint
A fundamental typological variation in the world’s languages is their basic word order; around 80% of spoken languages are either Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) or Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Previous work has related this typological pattern to a striking finding in ad-hoc gesture production: across a wide range of languages, people tend to use the orde...
Article
p>Being a non-native speaker of a language poses challenges. Individuals often feel embarrassed by the errors they make when talking in their second language (L2). However, here we report an advantage of being an L2 speaker: native speakers give foreign-accented speakers the benefit of the doubt when interpreting their utterances, such that apparen...
Article
Full-text available
Although the mapping between form and meaning is often regarded as arbitrary, there are in fact well-known constraints on words which are the result of functional pressures associated with language use and its acquisition. In particular, languages have been shown to encode meaning distinctions in their sound properties, which may be important for l...
Article
The thesis in this paper is that L2 speakers differ from L1 speakers in their ability to do memory storage and retrieval about linguistic structure. We would like to suggest it is possible to go farther than this thesis and develop a computational-level theory which explains why this mechanistic difference between L2 and L1 speakers exists. For thi...
Article
Full-text available
Languages vary in their number of color terms. Why? The two dominant theories (universalist hypothesis and linguistic-relativity hypothesis), do not account for empirical evidence. Here we test an alternative, the "efficient-communication hypothesis", which postulates that all people with trichromatic vision have similar color perception, but vary...
Article
While published linguistic judgments sometimes differ from the judgments found in large-scale formal experiments with naive participants, there is not a consensus as to how often these errors occur nor as to how often formal experiments should be used in syntax and semantics research. In this article, we first present the results of a large-scale r...
Article
‘z-bad’ is the average z-score for the hypothesized ‘bad’ option. ‘z-good’ is the average z-score for the hypothesized good option. ‘Z.diff’ is the difference between z-good and z-bad and is the effect size. Beta is the estimate from the linear mixed-effects model, which has a standard error ‘SE’ and a t-value ‘t’. ‘χ²’ is the chi-squared value com...
Article
The ability to efficiently process presuppositions, which contain information that the speaker believes to be in the background to the conversation, is essential for effective communication. To get a deeper understanding of the nature and the time-course of temporal presupposition processing, we examined event-related potential evoked by the word a...
Article
To master the natural number system, children must understand both the concepts that number words capture and the counting procedure by which they are applied. These two types of knowledge develop in childhood, but their connection is poorly understood. Here we explore the relationship between the mastery of counting and the mastery of exact numeri...
Article
We performed an exhaustive meta-analysis of 73 peer-reviewed journal articles on syntactic priming from the seminal Bock (1986) paper through 2013. Extracting the effect size for each experiment and condition, where the effect size is the log odds ratio of the frequency of the primed structure X to the frequency of the unprimed structure Y, we foun...
Article
Hackl, Koster-Hale & Varvoutis (2012; Journal of Semantics, 29, 145-206; HKV) provide data that suggested that in a null context, antecedent-contained-deletion (ACD) relative clause structures modifying a quantified object noun phrase are easier to process than those modifying a definite object NP. HKV argue that this pattern of results supports a...
Article
Full-text available
The Pirahã language has been at the center of recent debates in linguistics, in large part because it is claimed not to exhibit recursion, a purported universal of human language. Here, we present an analysis of a novel corpus of natural Pirahã speech that was originally collected by Dan Everett and Steve Sheldon. We make the corpus freely availabl...
Article
Background: It has long been observed that, when confronted with an implausible sentence like The ball kicked the girl, individuals with aphasia rely more on plausibility information from world knowledge (such that a girl is likely to kick a ball, but not vice versa) than control non-impaired populations do. We here offer a novel hypothesis to expl...
Article
Cooperation often results in a final material resource that must be shared, but deciding how to distribute that resource is not straightforward. A distribution could count as fair if all members receive an equal reward (egalitarian distributions), or if each member's reward is proportional to their merit (merit-based distributions). Here, we propos...
Article
Full-text available
We address recent criticisms (Liu et al., 2015; Ferrer-i-Cancho and G\'omez-Rodr\'iguez, 2015) of our work on empirical evidence of dependency length minimization across languages (Futrell et al., 2015). First, we acknowledge error in failing to acknowledge Liu (2008)'s previous work on corpora of 20 languages with similar aims. A correction will a...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
We present experiments with generative models for linearization of unordered labeled syntactic dependency trees (Belz et al., 2011; Rajkumar and White, 2014). Our linearization models are derived from generative models for dependency structure (Eisner, 1996). We present a series of generative dependency models designed to capture successively more...
Article
Full-text available
Significance We provide the first large-scale, quantitative, cross-linguistic evidence for a universal syntactic property of languages: that dependency lengths are shorter than chance. Our work supports long-standing ideas that speakers prefer word orders with short dependency lengths and that languages do not enforce word orders with long dependen...
Article
According to one view of linguistic information (Karttunen, 1974; Stalnaker, 1974), a speaker can convey contextually new information in one of two ways: (a) by asserting the content as new information; or (b) by presupposing the content as given information which would then have to be accommodated. This distinction predicts that it is conversation...
Article
Full-text available
Hackl, Koster-Hale and Varvoutis (2012) argue for the existence of QR on the basis of the processing of ACD. But they failed to include a crucial control, and once included, one can show that the effect they demonstrate has nothing to do with QR but comes instead from a pressure to insert word like also or same where the reported events are 'the sa...
Book
Top researchers in prosody and psycholinguistics present their research and their views on the role of prosody in processing speech and also its role in reading. The volume characterizes the state of the art in an important area of psycholinguistics. How are general constraints on prosody (‘timing’) and intonation (‘melody’) used to constrain the p...
Article
Full-text available
Visual illusions and other perceptual phenomena can be used as tools to uncover the otherwise hidden constructive processes that give rise to perception. Although many perceptual processes are assumed to be universal, variable susceptibility to certain illusions and perceptual effects across populations suggests a role for factors that vary cultura...
Article
This article reports on an experimental study of donkey pronouns, pronouns (e.g. it) whose meaning covaries with that of a non-pronominal noun phrase (e.g. a donkey) even though they are not in a structural relationship that is suitable for quantifier-variable binding. We investigate three constraints, (i) the preference for the presence of an over...
Article
We show that children in the Tsimane', a farming-foraging group in the Bolivian rain-forest, learn number words along a similar developmental trajectory to children from industrialized countries. Tsimane' children successively acquire the first three or four number words before fully learning how counting works. However, their learning is substanti...
Article
Hackl, Koster-Hale & Varvoutis (2012; HKV) provide data that suggest that in a null context, antecedent-contained-deletion (ACD) relative clause structures modifying a quantified object noun phrase (NP; such as every doctor) are easier to process than those modifying a definite object NP (such as the doctor). HKV argue that this pattern of results...
Article
Full-text available
Although syntactic complexity has been investigated across dozens of studies, the available data still greatly underdetermine relevant theories of processing difficulty. Memory-based and expectation-based theories make opposite predictions regarding fine-grained time course of processing difficulty in syntactically constrained contexts, and each cl...
Article
Absolute linguistic universals are often justified by cross-linguistic analysis: If all observed languages exhibit a property, the property is taken to be a likely universal, perhaps specified in the cognitive or linguistic systems of language learners and users. In many cases, these patterns are then taken to motivate linguistic theory. Here, we s...
Article
Full-text available
Language and music epitomize the complex representational and computational capacities of the human mind. Strikingly similar in their structural and expressive features, a longstanding question is whether the perceptual and cognitive mechanisms underlying these abilities are shared or distinct - either from each other or from other mental processes...
Data
Stimulus Files. This archive (.zip) contains the stimulus files from each condition used in the experiment. Audio files are waveform audio file format (.wav) and image files are bitmap image files (.bmp). (ZIP)
Data
Participant Background Questionnaire and Data. This archive (.zip) contains a copy of the self-report music and language background instrument (Portable Document Format, .pdf) and participants' summarized responses (OpenDocument Spreadsheet, .ods). (ZIP)
Data
Stimulus Generation Scripts. This archive (.zip) contains the Praat scripts used to generate auditory stimuli and the MATLAB scripts used to generate visual stimuli. All scripts (.praat, .m) are plain text files. (ZIP)
Data