Field of Science

Find the Dax

Steven Pinker includes this entertaining clip from a "movie script" in one of his books:

Woman: I'm leaving you.
Man: Who is he?

This is one of my favorite examples of the truism that a lot more is going on in language than meets the eye. To understand this dialog, one has to make a number of assumptions. More broadly, to understand it, one has to know a great deal about human behavior. Imagine a computer programmed to understand language but which knows nothing about humans. How would it interpret this scene? And yet we bring all this background knowledge to bear effortlessly, and make inferences without even necessarily noticing it.

This phenomenon -- the background machinery of language comprehension, if you will -- is at the heart of what the Cognition and Language Laboratory. That said, only one of our current experiments really explores that issue. Please check it out and participate. It takes about five minutes, and at the end you will learn a little bit more about this line of research:

Find the Dax (

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