The pressure to communicate efficiently continues to shape language use later in life

Madeleine Long, Hannah Rohde, Paula Rubio-Fernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Language use is shaped by a pressure to communicate efficiently, yet the tendency towards redundancy is said to increase in older age. The longstanding assumption is that saying more than is necessary is inefficient and may be driven by age-related decline in inhibition (i.e. the ability to filter out irrelevant information). However, recent work proposes an alternative account of efficiency: In certain contexts, redundancy facilitates communication (e.g., when the colour or size of an object is perceptually salient and its mention aids the listener’s search). A critical question follows: Are older adults indiscriminately redundant, or do they modulate their use of redundant information to facilitate communication? We tested efficiency and cognitive capacities in 200 adults aged 19-82. Irrespective of age, adults with better attention switching skills were redundant in efficient ways, demonstrating that the pressure to communicate efficiently continues to shape language use in later life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8214
JournalScientific Reports
Volume10
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2020

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