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You are here: Home / News & Events / CLS Speaker Series / Spring 2021 / Sarah Brown-Schmidt (Vanderbilt University) - Memory for Conversation and the Multiple-Perspectives Theory of Communication

Sarah Brown-Schmidt (Vanderbilt University) - Memory for Conversation and the Multiple-Perspectives Theory of Communication

When Jan 29, 2021
from 09:00 AM to 10:30 AM
Where ZOOM Virtual Room (Link will be provided)
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Memory for Conversation and the Multiple-Perspectives Theory of Communication

In conversation, the discourse history, including past referents and how they were described, shapes future language use. While it is widely known that interlocutors form representations of the discourse history, the veracity and similarity of these representations among interlocutors has not been widely explored. Through the study of referential form in conversation, combined with explicit measures of memory for past referents, I show that interlocutors are likely to walk away from a conversation with distinct memories for the contents, and in some cases the context of conversation. In general, speakers tend to remember what was said better than listeners do. Studies of conversational language use in persons with anterograde amnesia offer insights into the biological memory systems involved. The findings challenge the idea that common ground - or any shared or mutual representation - plays a central role in communication. Instead, I will argue that the successful exchange of meaning in conversation involves imperfect, asymmetric representations of the jointly experienced past. Along with my collaborator, Daphna Heller (Toronto), in a novel theoretical proposal, we propose a cognitive architecture where the representations of self and others are tracked and updated, and compared regularly during conversation. In this model, it is the asymmetries between the conversational partners that drive communication. We term this new account the Multiple-Perspectives Theory of the role of mental states in communication.