An Evaluation of Listener Comprehension Indecision and Cognitive Effort When Unresolvable Ambiguity Leads to Miscommunication
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Description: Miscommunication is pervasive in conversational interactions, having short- and long-range impacts on interpersonal communication. The evaluation of the social and cognitive underpinnings of miscommunication have received relatively less attention. Here we report two experiments investigating how a listener’s cognitive effort and decision-making processes were affected by a speaker’s use of ambiguity that led to a miscommunication. Both Experiments 1 and 2 found that an environmental cue that made a miscommunication more or less salient impacted listener language processing effort. Moreover, findings from Experiment 2 indicated that listeners may develop different processing heuristics dependent upon the speaker’s use of ambiguity that led to miscommunication, exerting a significant impact on cognition and decision-making. For instance, we found that perspective taking effort and decision-making complexity metrics predict language processing effort, indicating that instances of miscommunication produced cognitive consequences of indecision, thinking, and cognitive pull. Together, these results indicate that listeners behave both reciprocally and adaptively when miscommunications occur, but the way they respond is largely dependent upon the type of ambiguity and how often it is produced by the speaker.
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