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Producing a message of comparison: Evidence for relational schemas in speech production Open Access


Other title
Speech production
Preverbal message
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Mullins, Blaine
Supervisor and department
Dixon, Peter (Psychology)
Examining committee member and department
Spalding, Tom (Psychology)
Griffin, Zenzi (Psychology, University of Texas at Austin)
Nicoladis, Elena (Psychology)
Tucker, Benjamin (Linguistics)
Department of Psychology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Four speech production experiments were conducted to examine how adults produce preverbal messages involving comparisons. It was argued that the generation of any message involving a comparison involves three decisions. First, a dimension for the comparison must be selected. Second, a contrasting object for this dimension must be selected. Third, a referent must be selected for the contrasting object. Participants were shown three objects on a computer screen and were asked to compare two objects along the dimensions of size (Experiments 1 and 2) or hue (Experiments 3 and 4). For example, a participant might be asked to compare the size of a medium-sized snake to either a small fish or a large bird. With each comparison, participants produced a noun (fish, bird) and an adjective (bigger, smaller) that could be repeated or switched from one trial to another. Experiment 1 showed a large tendency to repeat nouns, suggesting that speakers were repeating referents. Experiment 2, however, showed a large tendency to repeat comparisons to objects of the same size, suggesting that speakers were repeating contrasting objects not referents. Experiments 3 and 4 showed that the repetition effect disappeared after one filler trial. This suggested that decisions were made in short-term working memory. It was concluded that these three decisions are both necessary and sufficient for the generation of a preverbal message involving any comparison.
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