Cognitive disorders as sources of variation in dialogues

Abstract : Participating in a dialogic conversation requires complex skills for inter- and intra-personal coordination. During turn-taking, for instance, conversational partners have to rapidly agree on who speaks next and when. This requires that they start planning their utterances already when listening to their interlocutors. The present study investigates speech planning in French dialogues, by determining whether the size of the planning unit depends on speakers’ cognitive abilities. Cognitive constraints are investigated by looking at the effects of working memory capacity in healthy adults and in individuals with cognitive disorders, i.e., with patients affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). An interactive card game was created, in which cognitive load was manipulated by requiring the conversational partners (8 pairs of healthy-healthy speakers vs. 8 pairs of healthy-MS speakers) to recall the images displayed on the cards while talking. A battery of neuropsychological tests allowed assessing individual cognitive abilities. Preliminary results suggest that MS patients with low working memory realize longer pauses at the beginning of their utterance and their speech is characterized by higher number of pauses. Also, conversational partners adapt to the speech of MS patients, with the degree of adaptation varying depending on patients’ cognitive abilities. This suggests that individual sources of variation should include also cognitive abilities, and that speaker-specific differences should be taken into account by models of language production.
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Caterina Petrone, Elisa Sneed, Simona Schiattarella, Giovanna de Bellis, Tim Mahrt, et al.. Cognitive disorders as sources of variation in dialogues. AISV 2017, Jan 2017, Pisa, Italy. ⟨halshs-01459699⟩

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