Lexical entrainment reflects a stable individual trait: Implications for individual differences in language processing

Anita Tobar Henríquez, Hugh Rabagliati, Holly Branigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Language use is intrinsically variable, such that the words we use vary widely across speakers and communicative situations. For instance, we can call the same entity refrigerator or fridge. However, attempts to understand individual differences in how we process language have made surprisingly little progress, perhaps because most psycholinguistic instruments are better-suited to experimental comparisons than differential analyses. In particular, investigations of individual differences require instruments that have high test-retest reliability, such that they consistently distinguish between individuals across measurement sessions. Here, we established the reliability of an instrument measuring lexical entrainment, or the tendency to use a name that a partner has used before (e.g., using refrigerator after a partner used refrigerator), which is a key phenomenon for the psycholinguistics of dialogue. Online participants completed two sessions of a picture matching-and-naming task, using different pictures and different (scripted) partners in each session. Entrainment was measured as the proportion of trials on which participants followed their partner in using a low-frequency name, and we assessed reliability by comparing entrainment scores across sessions. The estimated reliability was substantial, both when sessions were separated by minutes and when sessions were a week apart. These results suggest that our instrument is well-suited for differential analyses, opening new avenues for understanding language variability.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Early online date3 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Oct 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • test-retest reliability
  • individual differences
  • lexical entrainment
  • language production


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