The Role of Construal in the Semantic Mapping of German prepositions

Franka Kermer, University of Turku


A preposition’s semantic value is fundamentally derived from our conceptualization of the spatial-physical world and mediated by how we interact with objects in our environment.  This talk aims to present the results of a study that examined the relationship between our construal of a given scene and prepositional meaning in spatial particles. These construal patterns include aspects associated with the configuration between two objects, the rajectory and landmark, pertaining to the figure-ground alignment, the level of specificity with which certain elements are portrayed, the perspective and viewpoint that is imposed on a scene and thus allows to locate elements relative to, e.g., the front-back axis, as well as the degree of subjectivity, which relates to how absorbed the conceptualizer is in the process of conceptualization. To demonstrate the significance of construal to the understanding of the polysemous nature of spatial prepositions, an analysis of two German prepositions jenseits (‘beyond’) and hinter (‘behind’) was carried out.

The (re-)einterpretation of jenseits and hinter is supported by empirical examples extracted from the DWDS sub-corpus Die Zeit, a German national weekly newspaper. A sample of 2000 instances of the prepositional use of jenseits and hinter was collected and then classified semantically into categories based on the construal mechanisms and the rajectory-landmark relationship these instances encode. The analysis shows that a high frequency of the occurrences found in the sample constitute non-spatial meanings of jenseits and hinter and thus encode a rajectory-landmark configuration in more abstract domains such as TIME, PATH and, CONTAINMENT. Lastly, it is shown that these meaning extensions arise due to the changes in the construal of a scene through metaphorical mappings.



Boers, F. (1996). Spatial Prepositions and Metaphor. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag.

Brenda, M. (2019). The semantics of the English complex preposition next to. Review of Cognitive Linguistics, 17(2), 438–464.

Brugman, C. (1981). The story of over: Polysemy, semantics, and the structure of the lexicon. New York: Garland Publishing.

Coventry, K. R. (2015). Space. In E. Dabrowska & D. Divjak (Eds.), Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics (pp. 489–507). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

Evans, V. (2005). The meaning of time: polysemy, the lexicon and conceptual structure. Journal of Linguistics, 41(1), 33–75.

Grady, J. (2005). Primary metaphors as inputs to conceptual integration. Journal of Pragmatics, 37, 1595–1614.

Lakoff, G., & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Morras, J., & Barcelona, A. (2019). Conceptual structuring of the English prepositions between, among, and amid, and their Spanish equivalent entre: A cognitive linguistic approach to spatial, non-spatial and temporal scenes. Cognitive Linguistic Studies, 6(1), 103–129.

Wunderlich (1985). Raum, Zeit und das Lexikon. In Schweizer, H. (Ed.) Psychologische und linguistische Aspekte der Aneignung und Verarbeitung von Räumlichkeit (pp. 66–89) Stuttgart: Metzler.

The effect of type and frequency of morphosyntactic alternations on speakers’ preferential choices and ratings

Jane Klavan, University of Tartu


The paper focuses on the linguistic knowledge of alternating morphosyntactic constructions as attested in native speakers’ preferential choices and ratings. It contributes to the growing body of research that suggests the importance of alternation studies for the empirical foundation of usage-based construction grammar (e.g. Bresnan 2007; Cappelle 2006; Divjak et al. 2016; Gries & Stefanowitsch 2004; Klavan & Divjak 2016; Perek 2012; Szmrecsanyi et al. 2016; Van de Velde 2014). The alternating constructions of interest are three morphosyntactic alternations in Estonian – between the exterior locative cases allative, adessive and ablative and the corresponding postpositions peale ‘onto’, peal ‘on’ and pealt ‘off’ (examples 1 – 3).

The overall frequencies of the alternating constructions are very different. Case constructions are almost 100 times more frequent than the corresponding postpositional constructions. It is predicted that the strength of different factors on speakers’ choices will vary by the types and frequencies of constructions. It is predicted that the direction of the effects is the same, but the three alternations exhibit different constraints on their use. The corpus data used in the study constitutes a sample of 3,000 sentences (500 per construction) from the Estonian National Corpus (ENC 2017; 1,3 billion words). Experimental data comprises a forced choice (75 participants) and an acceptability rating task (105 participants).

Mixed-effects logistic regression analysis shows that although the direction of the effects for the predictors is the same across three alternations, the ranking and selection of predictors is different. For lative and locative, length, mobility and syntactic function of Landmark phrase are the strongest predictors. For separative, mobility and complexity are the strongest predictors followed by position and length. It seems that the more frequent the construction, the less constraints we have. This result is, by and large, confirmed by native speaker behaviour as attested in two experiments.

The paper shows that the grammatical knowledge of Estonian exterior locative constructions is probabilistic and regulated by the predictors in a relatively uniform way: the postpositional constructions are preferred with short, mobile entities functioning as adverbials; the case constructions are preferred with longer, static entities functioning as modifiers. What differs is the ranking and selection of predictors across the different alternations. The results of the paper have wider theoretical implications for the empirical foundations of alternation studies. Native speaker behaviour as attested in corpora and linguistic experiments indicates that there are differences in the linguistic knowledge of alternating morphosyntactic constructions.



Bresnan, Joan. 2007. Is syntactic knowledge probabilistic? Experiments with the English dative alternation. In Sam Featherston & Wolfgang Sternefeld (eds.), Roots: Linguistics in search of its evidential base, 75–96. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Cappelle, Bert. 2006. Particle placement and the case for “allostructions”. Constructions online SV1-7. 1–28.

Divjak, Dagmar, Antti Arppe & Ewa Dąbrowska. 2016. Machine meets man: Evaluating the psychological reality of corpus-based probabilistic models. Cognitive Linguistics 27(1). 1–33.

Gries, Stefan Th. & Anatol Stefanowitsch. 2004. Extending collostructional analysis: A corpus-based perspective on ‘alternations’. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics 9(1). 97-129.

Klavan, Jane & Dagmar Divjak. 2016. The cognitive plausibility of statistical classification models: Comparing textual and behavioral evidence. Folia Linguistica 50(2). 355–384.

Perek, Florent. 2012. Alternation-based generalizations are stored in the mental grammar: Evidence from a sorting task experiment. Cognitive Linguistics 23(3). 601-635. DOI:

Szmrecsanyi, Benedikt, Jason Grafmiller, Benedikt Heller & Melanie Röthlisberger. 2016. Around the world in three alternations: Modeling syntactic variation in varieties of English. English World-Wide 37(2). 109–137. DOI:

Van de Velde, Freek. 2014. Degeneracy: The maintenance of constructional networks. In Ronny Boogaart, Timothy Colleman & Gijsbert Rutten (eds.), Extending the scope of Construction Grammar, 141–179. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.

On embodied polysemiotic communication: language, gesture and body

Piotr Konderak, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Lublin


1. Language and polysemiotic communication
Cognitive semiotics explores the notion of polysemiotic communication understood as intertwined use of two or more semiotic systems. Language – in its various forms – can be treated as a paradygmatic example of a semiotic system (Zlatev et al. 2020). However, human everyday communication involves more than just language. In actual communicative situations, language is a component of more complex polysemiotic system, where speech is integrated with a number of other bodily activities including body posture, head movements, face expressions, gaze and manual gestures of a kind. These extra-linguistic semiotic resources gain their importance in the context of “embodied turn” in studies on cognition and communication.

2. Embodiment
In my presentation, I focus on the phenomenon of co-expression of speech and two other bodily activities. The first one is called spontaneous gesticulation (McNeilll 1992) or singular gestures (Müller, 2018), i.e. gestures that are spontaneously created, that are global-synthetic, holistic (McNeilll 1992) which are not explicitly planned or monitored. There are situations (stuttering, memory losses, blindness) which suggest deep interdependence between speech and gesticulation. The second semiotic resource to be discussed is the phenomenon of extended body posture and bodily movement (Mondada 2016). In this case, entire “walking bodies” and speech are coordinated and interdependent as elements of one action. As I argue, in both cases integration of speech and these activities can be observed. In other words, I claim that language together with these two semiotic resources constitute one, broader polysemiotic system of communication. I will supplement the above findings with my own study on meaning-making activities during educational (teaching-learning) interactions.

3. Phenomenology
It is not a coincidence that spontaneous gesturing, bodily movements are synchronous and co-expressive with speech. An account of integration of language (speech) and embodied activities can be found in phenomenology, especially within Merleau-Ponty’s (1962) philosophy of embodiment. In this view, our various activities (including verbal and manual ones) are different facets of the same activity: of the whole organism in its environment. In particular, co-expression of speech and gestures are seen as co-emergence of two aspects of the same phenomenon: immersion of an embodied subject in intersubjective and meaningful world. In this context, subjects experience various forms of expressing (gesturing, speech) as activity of one body.



McNeill, D. (1992). Hand and Mind: What Gestures Reveal About Thought. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Merleau-Ponty, M. (1962). Phenomenology of Perception. London: Routledge.

Mondada, L. (2016). Challenges of multimodality: Language and the body in social interaction. Journal of Sociolinguistics 20 (3), 336–366.

Müller, C. (2018). Gesture and Sign: Cataclysmic Break or Dynamic Relations? Frontiers in Psychology 9:1651.

Quaeghebeur, L., Duncan, S., Gallagher, S., Cole, J. & McNeill, D. (2014). In: Müller, C. Cienki, A. Fricke, E. Ladewig, S.H. McNeill, D. & Teßendorf, S. (eds.) Body – Language – Communication (HSK 38.2), pp. 2048–2061. De Gruyter-Mouton.

Zlatev, J., Żywiczyński, P. & Wacewicz, S. (2020). Pantomime as the original human-specific communicative system. Journal of Language Evolution 5(2), 156–174.

Consciousness in language – confronting Chalmer’s challenge empirically in linguistics

Reetta Konstenius, Åbo Akademi University


Since David Chalmers (1995) pointed out the hard problem of consciousness, the number of papers mentioning consciousness in relation to language decreased. The problem of subjective experience and awareness did not seem to have a solution. While consciousness is now rarely mentioned in linguistic literature the different aspects of consciousness have not disappeared from linguistic or cognitive theory. Awareness, intention, knowing etc. are fundamental. These concepts are also incorporated in an array of empirical studies on language processing or mental representations of language (e.g., Gonzales-Marques 2007). Can consciousness be studied in experimental settings through observational terms, indirect observables, and constructs? The aspect of subjectivity seems to be lost in the scientific process as Chalmers suggests. Subjective experience cannot be a collective third person perspective i.e., scientific knowledge. However, there are other aspects of consciousness that might to be available for an empirical approach.

Consciousness is a polysemous concept. Not only has different schools of thought given it differing meanings, but the term is also used to signify a set of different mental functions or states of mind as for example wakefulness, state of being responsive, perception of something, knowledge of something, cognizant, meta-awareness, sensible and so on. Most set members of the concept of consciousness have linguistic correlates that can be empirically studied. For example, meta-awareness in second language learning or eye-tracking involuntary vs. voluntary linguistic processing. The constructs that are measured in empirical research designs never tell us the whole story about consciousness, but they do touch important aspects of it.

The tension between subjectivity and objectivity in scientific research remains to be solved. This is a problem for the philosophy of science to answer. In linguistics standard empirical methodology can and should be used when studying the different aspects of consciousness in language. Conceptual analysis leading to a measurable construct with direct or indirect observables constitute the basis of an empirical research design.



Chalmers, D. J. 1995. Facing up to the problem of consciousness. Journal of Consciousness Studies 2: 200- 19.

Gonzalez-Marquez, M. (Ed.). (2007). Methods in cognitive linguistics (Vol. 18). John Benjamins Publishing.

This crap or that crap? What demonstrative choice reveals about the depressive self

Line Kruse, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University
Roberta Rocca, Psychoinformatics Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin
Mikkel Wallentin, Department of Linguistics, Cognitive Science and Semiotics, Aarhus University

Background: Spatial demonstratives are highly frequent linguistic universals (Levinson, 2018; Diessel, 1999), with at least two contrastive expressions (“this” vs. “that”) indicating physical, emotional, or functional proximity of the speaker to the referent (Kemmerer, 1999). Recent evidence indicates that even in the absence of a communicative context, demonstrative choices are highly consistent across individuals, suggesting that demonstratives in such cases reflect experienced or emotional proximity to the self in a mental space (Rocca et al., 2019). Further, these representations appear to be related to the semantic features of the referent, such as valence and manipulability (Rocca et al., 2019). Depression is a disorder consistently characterized by a maladaptive focus on the self, manifest in language-use such as increased use of first-person pronouns (Holtzman, 2017). Further, neural evidence has suggested impaired self-referent emotional processing (Miskowiak et al., 2018) as well as altered processing of emotional valence stimuli (Groenewald et al., 2013). The current project aimed to extend previous findings on demonstrative choice, and address whether individuals with depression can be detected from demonstrative choice behavior along specific semantic dimensions.

Methods: 775 adult native English speakers completed a 290-nouns Demonstrative Choice Task (Rocca & Wallentin 2020), in which they were presented with one noun at a time and were to match it with either “this” or “that”. Depression was defined as a sum score above 10 on the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) (Kroenke et al., 2001). PCA was performed on the 290 response items. 100 logistic regression models were trained with repeated k-fold cross-validation, predicting PHQ-9 class (healthy vs. depressed) from 1-100 of the PCs. All models were evaluated on a hold-out test set (30% of the data).

Results: The best model exhibited an out-of-sample classification accuracy of 0.65 (p<0.001), with an F1-score of 0.65. The nouns with strongest negative effect (indicating that depressed individuals chose “this” more often than healthy individuals) included: crap, burden, poverty, distraction, avoidance, complaint, darkness, excuse, perjury, and woe. The nouns with strongest positive effect (indicating that healthy individuals chose “this” more often than depressed individuals) included: faith, wealth, meeting, sense, use, carriage, package, belief, beer and motive.

Conclusion: Individuals with depression could be classified from demonstrative choices with an accuracy of 65%. Further, depressed individuals were more likely to use a proximal demonstrative for highly negatively valanced nouns than healthy individuals, while healthy individuals were more likely to use proximal demonstratives for positively valanced nouns and nouns related to social interaction. These findings indicate that demonstrative choices may capture important aspects of self-representation related to depressive mental states and could possibly serve as non-reflective markers of depression.



Diessel, H. (1999). Demonstratives: Form, function and grammaticalization (Vol. 42). John Benjamins Publishing.

Groenewold, N. A., Opmeer, E. M., de Jonge, P., Aleman, A., & Costafreda, S. G. (2013). Emotional valence modulates brain functional abnormalities in depression: evidence from a meta-analysis of fMRI studies. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(2), 152-163.

Holtzman, N. S. (2017). A meta-analysis of correlations between depression and first person singular pronoun use. Journal of Research in Personality, 68, 63-68.

Kemmerer, D. (1999). “Near” and “far” in language and perception. Cognition, 73(1), 35-63.

Kroenke, K., Spitzer, R. L., & Williams, J. B. (2001). The PHQ‐9: validity of a brief depression severity measure. Journal of general internal medicine, 16(9), 606-613.

Levinson, S. C. (2018). Introduction: demonstratives: patterns in diversity. In Demonstratives in cross-linguistic perspective (pp. 1-42). Cambridge University Press.

Miskowiak, K. W., Larsen, J. E., Harmer, C. J., Siebner, H. R., Kessing, L. V., Macoveanu, J., & Vinberg, M. (2018). Is negative self-referent bias an endophenotype for depression? An fMRI study of emotional self-referent words in twins at high vs. low risk of depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, 226, 267-273.

Rocca, R., Tylén, K., & Wallentin, M. (2019). This shoe, that tiger: Semantic properties reflecting manual affordances of the referent modulate demonstrative use. PloS one, 14(1), e0210333.

Rocca, R. and M. Wallentin (2020). ”Demonstrative Reference and Semantic Space: A Large-Scale Demonstrative Choice Task Study.” Frontiers in Psychology 11(629).

Constructing a cross-linguistic lexical comprehension task in Mandarin

Jenny Yichun Kuo, National Chiayi University


Many countries enjoy long histories of bi- or multilingualism; while many traditionally monolingual countries like the US are experiencing increasing bilingualism due to immigration (August & Shanahan, 2006). However, most of the lexical assessments were developed for monolinguals, which have been shown to be inaccurate to assess bilinguals.

The most common measure of preschoolers’ vocabulary size is parent report such as MB CD-I and MB CDI-II (Fenson et al, 1993a, 1993b), available in 61 languages (Dale & Penfold, 2011). However, it is an indirect measure and not objective (Caselli, et, al, 1995). The other format is picture vocabulary test with Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Dunn & Dunn, 1981) used most widely, translated into Chinese (Lu & Liu, 1998). However, the translated version has underestimated the vocabulary size of Mandarin speakers (Kuo & Yu, 2014). The current Mandarin vocabulary tests were either translated from English (i.e. Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Lu & Liu, 1998), or followed different procedures from tests in other languages (i.e., Chinese Vocabulary Test (Kuo & Yu, 2014) which cannot be used to test bilinguals or for cross-linguistic study. In this study, I constructed an international and standardized picture vocabulary comprehension task in Mandarin for preschoolers. The design of the task followed the procedures of cross-linguistic lexical tasks in 32 languages (Haman, Łuniewska, and Pomiechowska, 2015) and computerized on a tablet.

First twenty Mandarin-speaking adults named 300 pictures and we selected those with high agreement as candidate words for the lexical task. Then, another 43 Mandarin-speaking adults participated in the rating of age of acquisition of those words. Moreover, the phonological and morphological complexity was calculated.  The noun and verb task each consists of two training trails and 30 trails with comparable level of difficulty in terms of age of acquisition and complexity. The instructions were recorded in Mandarin with automatic scoring and reaction time measure. The expert validity was attained by consulting a speech pathologist and an early childhood educator. The task was given to 500 Mandarin-speaking children aged 2-6 in Taiwan, 100 for each age group. The scores increase with age. The concurrent validity was established with Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test with correlation 77.

This Mandarin picture vocabulary measure could provide an assessment tool for preschooler’s vocabulary development in Mandarin monolinguals or bilinguals for diagnosis of language delay or language disorder.  It will also make a valuable tool for cross-linguistic research in language acquisition.

A proposal for a new model of understanding and analysing textual cohesion

Helga Mannsåker, University of Bergen


Halliday & Hasan (1976) were among the first to study the phenomenon of cohesion, and their work has had a seminal influence within text linguistics (Renkema & Schubert 2018: 126), serving as a basis for later models, such as the one found in Tanskanen (2006). However, there are fundamental problems with the way Halliday & Hasan (1976), and hence existing models, view textual cohesion. They treat meaning mostly as residing in texts and individual words rather than as created in the mind of the addressee on the basis of active interpretation of textual input. Furthermore, they rely too much on formal aspects and semantic relations between word stems and too little on the contextual reference of phrases. The flaws in the existing models become evident when one tries to employ them in analyses of authentic texts. Even Halliday & Hasan’s (1976: 2) initial and seemingly very basic example of cohesion in the form of full coreference, Wash and core six cooking apples. Put them in a fireproof dish, where the pronoun them is claimed to refer anaphorically to six cooking apples, is debatable, according to Brown & Yule (1983: 202), as them actually does not refer to the apples in their original state, but to their cored form.

The paper proposes an entirely new model of cohesion and a new method of cohesion analysis based on relations between the referents of phrases rather than on formal or semantic properties of textual constituents. The purpose of the work has been to try to find a solution to the challenges associated with denotation and reference in the analysis of cohesion. The proposed new model is based on insights from Wilson & Sperber’s (2006) Relevance Theory and from Cognitive Linguistics, such as Langacker’s (2008) work on nominal grounding elements, and Fauconnier’s (2010) work on Mental Spaces.



Brown, G. & Yule, G. (1983). Discourse analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fauconnier, G. (2010). Mental spaces. In: The Oxford handbook of cognitive linguistics, edited by D. Geeraerts & H. Cuyckens. Oxford: Oxford University Press. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199738632.013.0014

Halliday, M.A.K. & Hasan, R. (1976). Cohesion in English. London: Longman.

Langacker, R.W. (2008). Cognitive Grammar – a basic introduction. Oxford: Oxford university Press.

Renkema, J. & Schubert, C. (2018). Introduction to discourse studies: New Edition. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Tanskanen, S.-K. (2006). Collaborating towards coherence: Lexical cohesion in English discourse. Philadelphia: Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

A Cognitive Semiotics approach to universals

Juan Mendoza-Collazos, Lund University / Universidad Nacional de Colombia


The study of the relationship between material culture and language has a long tradition, from the studies of cultural evolution to the findings of the cognitive sciences. The recent conclusions of these studies in relation to the universals of language tend towards linguistic diversity and evolutionary linguistics, neglecting the role of universals. This article explores the role of artifacts in the constitution of universal patterns, proposing that within the evident cultural diversity –and language diversity–, it is still valid to consider universals without contradicting the new paradigms of cognitive semiotics. This idea is supported by the thesis of a relational ontology between artifacts and language.

In the field of research on human communication systems, Coseriu (1977) proposes the distinction between universals of language and universals of linguistics. The latter refer to linguistic theory: a body of systematized knowledge useful for studying the diversity of language from the perspective of methodologies and principles. It is the level of linguistics as a science (Coseriu 1977:328) and of linguistic epistemology, establishing general notions and methods of universal application. Instead, language universals refer to “properties of language itself” (ibid.:328). The analogies and structural similarities in phonemes, grammatical categories or types of sentences between different languages ​​are good examples of this. On the other hand, for Evans and Levinson (2009), the universals of language are nothing more than a myth. These authors, with a cognitive approach, question the existence of generally accepted universals such as phrases, lexical categories, structure rules or verbal affixes. To do this, they expose multiple examples of languages ​​showing cases in which said universals are not fulfilled. His alternative proposes the diversity of language as the norm, being the only crucial factor for understanding the nature of language and its role in human cognition (Evans and Levinson 2009:431). Comparing Evans and Levinson’s approach with Coseriu’s proposal, the former omit the distinction between linguistic universals and language universals. It is not clear if it is a deliberate omission or simple ignorance of the Romanian’s work. Instead, it should be noted that universals understood as scientific methodologies, in principle, would not be affected by the criticisms of Evans and Levinson. As Robert Freidin states, ‘It is not possible to disprove the hypotheses of universals only from specific examples’ (Freidin 2009:454). In the following lines I propose a balance between these two approaches, through the proposal of a relational ontology between artifacts and language that, from cognitive semiotics, insists on the possibility of universals both in the artificial world and in the world of ideas.



Coseriu, E. (1977) “Linguistic (and other) Universals” in Linguistics at the Crossroads, A. Makkai (ed.), 317-346. Padua: Liviana & Jupiter Press.

Evans, N. y Levinson, S. (2009) “The Myth of Language Universals: Language Diversity and its Importance for Cognitive Science”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (5): 429-448.

Freidin, R. (2009) “A note on methodology in linguistics”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 32 (5): 454-455.

How much do we really care? Pre-verbal and verbal investment in choices concerning faces and figures

Alexandra Mouratidou, Division for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University
Jordan Zlatev, Division for Cognitive Semiotics, Lund University
Joost van de Weijer, Humanities Laboratory, Lund University


Every day we make choices, but our degree of investment in them differs, both in terms of pre-verbal experience and verbal reasoning. In an earlier experimental study, participants were asked to pick the more attractive one among two human faces, and among two abstract figures, and later to provide verbal motivations for these choices. They did not know that in some of the cases their choices were manipulated (i.e., they were asked to motivate the item they had not chosen). Against claims about our unreliability as conscious agents (Nisbett and Wilson, 1977; Johansson et al., 2005), the study found that in about half the cases the manipulations were detected. In the present study, we investigated whether varying degrees of choice investment could be an explanatory factor for such findings. We analysed the verbal justifications of the participants along a set of semantic categories, based on theoretical ideas from phenomenology and cognitive linguistics, and formulated a matrix of eleven markers of choice investment. We predicted a greater degree of investment when motivating (a) choices of faces than figures, (b) manipulated than actual choices, and (c) detected than non-detected manipulations. These predictions were confirmed, but with various strength. This allows us to argue for both consilience and differences between pre-verbal choice investment and the corresponding verbal motivations of the choices made.


Johansson, P., Hall, L., Sikström, S., & Olsson, A. (2005). Failure to detect mismatches between intention and outcome in a simple decision task. Science, 310 (5745), 116-119.

Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D. (1977). Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes. Psychological Review, 84, 231-259.

‘Stay focused!’: The role of inner speech in maintaining attention during a boring task

Johanne Nedergaard, Aarhus University
Joshua Charles Skewes, Aarhus University
Mikkel Wallentin, Aarhus University


Is inner speech involved in sustaining attention, and is this reflected in response times for stimulus detection? In Experiment 1, we measured response times for infrequently occurring stimulus (a black dot occurring at 1–3-minute intervals) and subsequently asked participants to report on the character of inner experience at the time the stimulus appeared. Our main preregistered hypothesis was that there would be an interaction between inner speech and task relevance of thought with reaction times being the fastest on prompts preceded by task-relevant inner speech. This would indicate that participants used their inner voice for attentional control. Participants reported to be engaged in inner speech on approximately one third of all trials. With generalized linear mixed-effects models fitted to a Gamma distribution, we found significant effects of task relevance but no interaction with inner speech. However, using a hierarchical Bayesian analysis method, we found that trials preceded by task-relevant inner speech additionally displayed lower standard deviation and lower mode compared to all other trials. Due to deviations from the preregistered sampling and analysis procedures, we replicated our findings in Experiment 2. Our results add support to the hypothesis that inner speech serves a functional role in top-down attentional control.