Overlapping mechanisms in implying and inferring

Alice Rees, Lewis Bott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prior psychological work on Gricean implicature has revealed much about how listeners infer (comprehension) but little about how speakers imply (production). This is surprising given the inherent link between the two. The current study aimed to obtain a more integral understanding of implicatures by investigating the processes that are shared between inference and implication. In two experiments, a participant and a confederate engaged in a dialogue game that invited the use of implicatures. In each there was a global priming manipulation, in which a confederate predominantly used implicit or explicit utterances, and a local priming manipulation, in which the utterance structure varied from trial to trial. Participants could choose whether to imply or use an explicit expression. Our results revealed that speaker and listener align on their use of implicatures. We interpret the local priming results as providing evidence of shared implicature representations between speaker and listener, and the global priming results as a form audience design. We also present a model of implicature production that explains our findings.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12808
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalCognitive Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Dec 2019


  • psycholinguistics
  • pragmatics
  • language production
  • language comprehension
  • implicatures


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