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Title: The influence of conversational setting and cognitive load on reference in 2-party spoken dialogue
Author: Howarth, Barbara
ISNI:       0000 0001 3582 5756
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: University of Glasgow
Date of Award: 2004
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The main objective of this thesis is to investigate the way in which the conversational setting (video-mediated compared with face-to-face) and cognitive load (as illustrated by time pressure) influence spoken dialogue, with particular emphasis on the way speakers refer to objects in a discourse. Two studies were carried out which examined dialogues of pairs of participants performing a problem-solving task. Study 1 examined word duration in a video-mediated conversational setting. In Study 2, pairs of participants performed the Map Task (Brown et al., 1984) under time pressure and without the pressure of time. One group of participants performed the task in a face-to-face conversational setting and the other in a video-mediated setting. Consistent with the Dual Process Model (Bard et al., 2000), cognitive load influenced complex processes, such as task strategy and the establishment of common ground, or mutual knowledge. In contrast, automatic processes, such as articulatory priming (the faster articulation of repeated mentions of words referring to the same object), occurred irrespective of the setting in which the conversation took place or of any increase in cognitive load. Under time pressure, interlocutors were less collaborative and less co-ordinated in the way they established common ground than without the pressure of time. Time pressure also led interlocutors to adopt a strategy of making fewer references to objects, or landmarks on the map. While articulatory reduction occurred irrespective of the conversational setting, participants in a video-mediated setting spoke more slowly than participants in a face-to-face setting. Following Lindblom (1995), this suggested that participants adjusted their articulation in order to be understood in the relatively unfamiliar video-mediated environment. Interlocutors in a video-mediated conversational setting were also less collaborative and less coordinated in the way they established common ground compared with participants communicating in a face-to-face setting. Speakers may have felt socially distant (Short, Williams and Christie, 1976) from their interlocutor and the communicative situation in a video-mediated setting. The findings of this research imply a distinction between consciously controlled processes and automatic processes. Characteristics of spoken dialogue, such as the setting in which a conversation takes place or the cognitive load associated with the communicative task or goal, are more likely to impact on consciously controlled processes than automatic processes. Thus, for example, when participants in a dialogue converse in the usual face-to-face manner and where the cognitive demands associated with the communicative task are relatively low, interlocutors tend to be relatively collaborative in their communication (Clark and Wilkes-Gibbs, 1986; Pickering and Garrod, in press). However, when the communicative circumstances are less than ideal, because the conversational setting is unfamiliar, or because time is short, then complex facets of spoken discourse, such as collaborating with one's interlocutor to establish common ground, may be disrupted. An adequate account of spoken dialogue must account for the effect of dynamic aspects of dialogue such as where the conversation takes place and the cognitive demands associated with the communicative task or goal.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available