What does RALI stand for?

RALI stands for "Reasoning And Language Investigations".

The original Rali Lab was Professor Martin Braine's research lab at New York University. Lab personnel were Marty, David O'Brien, Jack McDonald, Ira Noveck, Sholly Fisch, Patty Brooks, Ruth Brody, Mark Samuels and myself. The name arose when AT&T donated a mainframe computer to the lab, and the computer needed a name. Ira, who was the computer's SuperUser, came up with the name late one night.

Today there are Rali labs around the world. Ira is the chief of "Rali Lyon"; Patty runs "Rali NYC"; and Mark heads up "South X SouthWest Rali". You're on "Rali Twin Cities" right now.


Resonance-Related Research

A major debate in my field is between “Minimalist” and “Constructionist” views of text processing. According to Constructionist views (Graesser, Singer, & Trabasso, 1994), reading is a “search after meaning”. That is, readers seek explanations for events and actions in a text by actively searching for explanations in long-term memory and in their mental representations of the preceding text. The search after meaning yields inference-rich mental models of the situations described in a text. According to the Minimalist view (McKoon & Ratcliff 1992), reading is characterized by “good enough” text representations. Reading is a relatively passive process in which general cognitive mechanisms (priming, memory retrieval) do much of the work. Top-down, schema-driven processes play a role in comprehension only when readers have specific goals (e.g., using text content to solve a particular problem).

My colleagues and I have contributed to this theoretical debate by showing that a passive memory process – called “resonance”—can explain results that were previously attributed to more analytic processes. According to resonance theory, readers derive concepts and propositions from each sentence as it is comprehended. These concepts and propositions are signals or cues to information in long-term memory. Concepts in long-term memory activate as a function of the degree to which they match (or resonate to) the input. The greater the overlap in features between the input signal and a long-term memory trace, the greater the probability that the memory trace will become sufficiently active to enter working memory and be available for further processing. Resonance is thought to be a “dumb” process in the sense that related, but irrelevant, concepts may be activated.

Reading 1: Graesser, Singer, & Trabasso, 1994

Reading 2: McKoon & Ratcliff, 1992

Reading 3: Albrecht & O'Brien, 1993

Reading 4: Lea, Mulligan, & Waton, 2005

Poetry Studies

Alliteration: Does alliteration help you read poetry?

Cue-driven retrieval processes like resonance have largely been investigated in situations that involve activation by means of semantic relatedness, syntactic expectations, and interactions between the two. A major test of these accounts is whether memory retrieval is unguided by strategic processes such that non-semantic, perceptual overlap also produces reactivation. General models of memory account for the reactivation of information by means of many different types of cues, perceptual as well as semantic. If text comprehension involves the reactivation of information only by means of semantic overlap, then general models of memory have limited utility for describing and explaining the nature of knowledge activation and integration in text comprehension. We pursued this issue by investigating the memorial effects of alliteration during poetry comprehension. My collaborators on this project were two Macalester students (Russell Swinburne Romine, ’03, and Aaron Mitchel, ’05) and an interdisciplinary team of faculty from the University of Minnesota (David Rapp from Educational Psychology and Andrew Elfenbein from English). We took existing poems (e.g., William Carlos Williams’s “Spring and All”) and revised them (slightly) to test our hypothesis that overlapping sounds should trigger resonance. For example, toward the end of “Spring and All”, we inserted the alliterative phrase “the wooden willowy warp of wildcarrot leaf.” Across three experiments, concepts presented early in a poem were more available when alliterative sounds overlapped between lines than when there was no overlap. Thus, repeating alliterative sounds resulted in measurable and reliable reactivation of backgrounded portions of the poems.

These results support an intuition that poets have had for centuries—alliteration and other poetic devices have important memory benefits. More importantly, they help psycholinguists understand what constitutes “feature overlap”. This research was published in the August 2008 issue of Psychological Science, one of the most widely-read journals in psychology (Lea et al., 2008).

Reading 1: Lea, Rapp, Elfenbein, Mitchel, & Romine, 2008

Rhyming/Expertise Study: Do experts hear rhymes before they read them?

We now know that explicit linguistic elements in a sentence can trigger a resonance process that reactivates related information. But can such processes be triggered by the cognitive anticipation of linguistic elements? Nora Clancy (’07) and I pursued this possibility by asking subjects to read poems that have predictable rhyming patterns. We have extended my previous findings by showing that rhyme reactivates information presented earlier in a poem. We are now collecting data on poetry “experts” (poets, faculty, and graduate students in English) to see if their experience with rhyme leads them to automatically anticipate the ending sound of a line. If it does, then we should find resonance effects in the absence of an explicitly presented stimulus. This result will expand our understanding of what constitutes a memory cue in reading.

Musical Resonance: Do overlapping melodies reactivate backgrounded lyrics?

I have also examined the power of overlapping sounds to trigger resonance in a Keck-funded project with Katherine Saylor (’05). Saylor, an accomplished musician, created our experimental stimuli from obscure English, Irish, and American songs. Each verse of two-verse songs comprised two interchangeable eight-bar phrases. We manipulated the overlap among the melodies and found reactivation effects (of lyrics) as a function of the overlap. This exciting result has been presented in numerous talks, and we are currently designing follow-up studies for future publication.

Reading 1: Albrecht & Myers 1995 Reading 2: Saylor & Lea manuscript

Time Shift Resonance: How do narrative time shifts affect the activation of text-based memory?

My colleagues and I have recently examined the extent to which reactivation could be affected by means other than feature overlap. We capitalized on research examining a model of text comprehension called the “Event Indexing Model” (Zwaan, 1996). According to the theory, readers’ mental representations of narratives are organized according to event boundaries. Boundaries are indexed by changes in important features of events, such as location or time. Thus, event changes like “A day later…” and “When they arrived at the museum…” trigger the creation of boundaries, that is, the representation of a new event that is separate from the representation of previous events. I examined the extent to which resonance was affected by the “psychological distance” that is created by an event boundary. According to resonance, the reactivation of Text Element A by Text Element B should not be affected by the number of intervening separate events (i.e., separate memory representations), whereas the Event-Indexing model would predict that the number of events that intrude between A and B should affect the extent to which B can reactivate A. These predictions are being tested in a series of experiments with. We manipulated time shifts in narratives while holding the physical distance between Text Elements A and B constant. In our first experiment, we found that time shifts changed the time course of reactivation (delayed it), but did not affect its strength. This result is difficult to explain by means of resonance alone. We have a second experiment underway at Macalester with important contributions from Matthew Olson (’08). These experiments were presented at the 2008 Psychonomic Society Conference in Chicago.

Reading 1: Albrecht & Myers (1995) Reading 2: Zwaan (1995; 1996)

Bilingual Resonance: Does resonance cross the bilingual divide?

The preceding studies demonstrate the importance of perceptual overlap in triggering resonance and provide an alternative explanation of some previous findings. In a typical study examining the role of resonance in memory reactivation, a phrase like “leather sofa” is presented early in a passage and then appears later as a cue to associated information in memory (e.g., Albrecht & Myers, 1995). The perfect overlap between “leather sofa” and “leather sofa” functions to reinstate story elements that had appeared close to the first presentation of the phrase. Experimental stimuli like these, however, confound semantic effects with perceptual ones. Is “leather sofa” an effective cue to “leather sofa” because the phrases have the same meaning or because they are perceptually the same? My colleague, Prof. Paul van den Broek (UMN), and I addressed this question in a bilingual study of resonance. We created “same language” and “different language” passages that had been used in previous research. Some passages began in English and ended in English (including the phrase “leather sofa” early and late in the passage). Some passages began in Spanish and ended in Spanish (including the phrase “sillón de cuero” early and late in the passage). Finally, some passages were mixed, beginning in English and ending in Spanish or vice versa. If resonance is based primarily on perceptual features of language (i.e., orthographic; phonetic), then reactivation should occur only in the same language conditions. We found strong resonance effects in all conditions, although they were marginally stronger in the same-language than mixed-language passages. This result strongly supports the conclusion that reactivation by means of “feature overlap” does not require perceptual overlap; semantic overlap is sufficient for reactivation. This research was presented at a conference in 2007 and I am currently preparing it for publication.

Reading 1: Bi-Lingual Resonance ppt poster

Character Reinstatement: Can knowing someone two ways make you forget one?

Description Coming Soon...

Reading 1: Lea, et al. 1998

Studies Related to Pragmatics

Developmental-Pragmatics: When do children develop text-based pragmatics?

Successful language comprehension involves both language-specific and general world knowledge. Competent language users have knowledge about word meanings and grammatical rules, along with world knowledge about how context affects meaning. The development of competence with respect to word meanings and syntax has been well studied by scholars in both Psychology and Linguistics. The application of world knowledge to language use, often called pragmatics, is also well understood, but only in adults. The acquisition of pragmatic knowledge by children has received surprisingly little attention. The research proposed here will explore the development of pragmatic knowledge in the context of story understanding among 6 and 8 year olds.

Imagine reading a novel in which the protagonist drops a handkerchief while getting on a bus. How might you interpret that event? Now imagine that you are waiting at a bus stop and you see someone drop a handkerchief while boarding the bus. Would you interpret the event in the same way? In the context of the novel, most readers are likely to infer that the dropped hankie has significance even though they may not yet know what that significance is. In the context of the real-life event, however, individuals are likely to attach little significance to the event. Why? One important difference is that the narrative event was created by an author who had some purpose in mind. She made her character drop the handkerchief for a reason. It may have been to reveal something about the character (e.g., he is careless) or as a plot device to which the story will return later (e.g., the hankie contained the DNA of a murder victim). In other words, the event exists because it serves a purpose. In the real-life example, however, the same sort of intentionality does not apply. There may be reasons why the event occurred, but it was not created with the observer in mind. As a result, there is no “intended” meaning to recover. Authors and speakers (broadly defined) take this pragmatic knowledge for granted and exploit it for effect. For example, in Richard Russo’s Straight Man, the novel’s opening line creates the feeling of having opened the book to a random page: “When my nose finally stopped bleeding and I’ve disposed of the bloody paper towels, Teddy Barnes insists on driving me home in his ancient Honda Civic, a car that refuses to die and that Teddy, cheap as he is, refuses to trade in.” Russo knows that his reader can assume intentionality on his part, and the reader knows that Russo knows this. Thus, the reader can proceed without pausing to worry about whether the story will ever make sense. In sum, much of narrative comprehension rests heavily on the assumption of author intent. This gives rise to several questions: 1) when in the development of language competence do young readers of stories begin to appreciate pragmatic assumptions like author intent? 2) what other sorts of cognitive capacities (e.g., perspective taking) are needed to support the acquisition of pragmatic knowledge? The research proposed here is intended to begin a series of experiments to understand when and how pragmatic knowledge develops. Our first study will examine children’s appreciation of protagonist goals. We have developed a methodology in which narrative comprehension can be assessed under varying conditions of “author intent.” Specifically, we plan to examine the manner in which adults and school-aged children (ages 6-8) process narratives when they believe that the events in the story are appearing in random order and when they believe that the events are appearing in their intended order. We predict that adults will believe that an author’s intent is violated when story events are presented randomly; therefore, they will process the story differently than when a story is told in the intended order.

Reading 1: Noveck’s developmental paper

If and Only If: Which moves faster in text comprehension, logic or pragmatics?

The account of the time course in which inferences are made during reasoning proposed by Van Der Henst, Bujakowka, Ciceron, and Noveck (in preparation) suggests that people make logical inferences spontaneously the moment necessary information becomes available. Then, they may use pragmatics to enrich meaning. This goes against certain traditional accounts of text processing that suggest that both logical and pragmatic enrichment occur on-line. Participants read stories borrowed and modified from Lea (1995) that involved either the valid MP inference (If P, then Q. P. Therefore Q.) or the invalid AC inference (If P, then Q. Q. Therefore, P.) Inference-making was measured by the speed of response to lexical decision words semantically associated with the inference concept. Results were inconclusive, as it appeared that people might have employed reading strategies that made it difficult to come up with any definite conclusions. Modifications will be made to further experiments with the hope of producing some coherent data

Reading 1: Lea, 1995 Reading 2: Noveck’s developmental paper Reading 3: Danny’s DR paper

Studies Involving Culture

Culture-and-Cognition Study: Do East Asians make different inferences while reading than do Westerners?

This ongoing study explores a theory (Nisbett, 2000) that people who grew up in a culture that derived from ancient Chinese philosophy think differently in some fundamental ways than do people who grew up in a culture that derived from ancient Greek philosophy. Status: This study was begun 3 years ago, and data collection from Asian-Americans finally has been completed. The results are interesting, somewhat surprising and publishable (humble opinion). This research project was presented at the Society for Text and Discourse in July 2007 in Glasgow, Scotland. The manuscript is being written up.

Reading 1: Nisbett, 2001 Reading 2: Culture’n’Cognition Poster

Correlation/Causation Study: Can cultural differences in the fundamental attribution error explain why the correlation/causation fallacy is so stubborn?

This new study concerns the fallacy that correlation implies causation (C/C). As a teacher of statistics, I am all to familiar with the stubbornness of this error in reasoning. I began thinking about the psychology behind C/C more deeply when I attended a symposium on teaching this concept to undergraduates at the National Institute for the Teaching of Psychology two years ago. A social-psychologist colleague of mine, David Matz, and I recently constructed the hypothesis that the psychology behind the fallacy may resemble that which underlies the well-known “Fundamental Attribution Error” (FAE). According to the FAE, when people explain other people’s behavior they tend to overestimate the contribution of dispositional causes and underestimate the contribution of situational causes. That is, they tend to believe that there is something intrinsic about Actor A that causes her to elicit Behavior B, rather than something about Context C that causes the behavior. With the correlation/causation fallacy, if variable A strongly predicts variable B, people tend to believe that it is A (or something about A) that causes B; the potential contribution of a “third variable” present in the Context ( C ) is often ignored. Therefore, we wonder whether there is something fundamental about the comprehension of causation that drives both phenomena. Importantly, the FAE is known to interact with culture; Westerners are more susceptible to the error than are East Asians. The first test of our hypothesis, therefore, will be to examine both the FAE and C/C in groups of Western and Eastern participants. That experiment is currently underway.

Article: Nygaard & Lunders

Other Studies

Memory Reprocessing: Does watching the movie make you forget the book?

Summery comming soon...

Prosody Study: What is the time course of emotion’s influence on lexical access?

This study examines the influence of emotional tone of voice on lexical access. If you hear the homophone “one/won” out of context, which meaning do you access? Previous research shows that tone of voice (positive or negative) can influence which of the two meanings is automatically retrieved. We are investigating the moment-by-moment processes that govern this effect. Karin Cox (’03) and I came up with the idea, and we are conducting the research at Mac with Prof. Slowiaczek as a collaborators). Status: Experiment 1 has been completed, but errors were found in the programming. The computer programs have been fixed, and the experiment was re-run successfully. Data collection for Experiment 2 is currently underway.

Article: Nygaard & Lunders

Lab Members

Brooke 'The Golden Bear' Lea (Lab Professor)

R. Brooke Lea, Associate Professor (B.A., Haverford College, M.A. and Ph.D., New York University), specializes in human cognition, with an emphasis on higher mental processes. His research interests include theories of discourse comprehension, models of human logical competence, the interaction between culture and cognition, and comprehension processes involved in reading poetry. He serves on the editorial board of Psychological Bulletin. He teaches courses on cognition, psychology of language, experimentation and statistics, and introductory psychology.

Contact info: lea@macalester.edu

Laura 'Red Bull' Bush (Lab Supervisor)

Laura is NOT crazy.

Contact info: lbush@macalester.edu

Anthony 'Wired' Tran

Anthony Tran (2011) is majoring in Psychology and minoring in Computer Science, with a focus on Cognitive Studies. He is interested particularly in cognition of language and communication, both in the realms of face-to-face conversation as well as on the internet, and the overlaps that follow. His interests include panoramas, data visualization, clouds, memes, web 2.0, vast outdoor spaces, hyperreality and NYC food - pork buns, halal chicken and rice and papaya king.

Contact info: tumblr

Spencer 'Junior' Retelle

Spencer Retelle '11 is majoring in Psychology and minoring in American Studies and English, with an emphasis in creative writing. He is interested in how self and prescribed titles affect one's perceptions. Ratatouille just finished his sophomore slump, which included (but is not limited to) changing majors and deciding to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in fall 2009. He is going to change the world, whether it be with his intellect, his writing, or his dashing smile. His interests include writing, analyzing everything (including statistics), and telling jokes.

Contact info: sretelle@macalester.edu

Bo 'Knows' Scarim

Bo Scarim (2013) is a Psychology major from Brooklyn, NY. Thus far, she's interested in social and cognitive psychology and hopes to use it to work for a research-based non-profit organization. She's also into taking photographs and playing music and not taking anything too seriously. Another goal she has is to explore new cities.

Contact info: bscarim@macalester.edu

Alvaro 'Pas de Deux' Ballarin

Alvaro is a Psychology and Economics major from Spain. He's particularly interested in cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology and behavioral economics. He has a deep admiration for the work of Steven Pinker, and hopes to be able to meet him one day. Right now, his professional goal is to be a researcher, either as an academic or working for some organization. In his free time, Alvaro likes to procrastinate watching youtube videos, watch soccer games, play Super Smash brothers and skiing.

Contact info: aballarin@macalester.edu

Previous Members

Chelsea 'Chelsea' Voskuilen

Chelsea Voskuilen (2010) is from Bothell, WA and is majoring in Psychology with minors in Math, Religious Studies, and Classical Languages. She's especially interested in areas of psychology which have legal ramifications (episodic memory, questioning tactics, facial recognition, etc) and is planning on going to grad school next year. Last summer she worked with Brooke on a study examining the ways resonance is involved in reading poetry. Outside of psychology, Chelsea spends a lot of time knitting, participating in Macalester's Multifaith Council, cooking large amounts of food, and being ridiculously afraid of centipedes.

Contact info: cvoskuilen@macalester.edu

Charles 'Curly' Brenner

Charlie Brenner ('10) is from Tucson, AZ, and majored in linguistics. He took some classes with Brooke and started getting jealous of cognitive psychology's methodological rigor, so he added a psychology minor to shore up his inferiority complex and did his honors research on a project in the RALI lab concerning event boundaries and memory access during reading. He thinks event models, memory, and language comprehension are pretty cool, so now he's at Washington University in St. Louis studying them as a graduate student. His hair still does not look like that.

Contact info: cbrenner@wustl.edu

Lisa 'Mad Dog' Weinberg

Lisa Weinberg (2010) is a senior psychology major and history minor. She joined RALI Lab in the fall of 2009 to run her honors project on the relationship between handedness, bilateral saccadic eye movements, and false alarms in recognition memory. As a lefty, Lisa is very interested in how left-handedness (and handedness in general) affects cognitive processes and what the possible practical implications of these effects may be. Lisa spends a lot of time convincing lefties to take her study and absolutely loves to do research. She plans to study cognitive psychology in grad school, but will take a year off after graduation to try something different. She does not have firm plans for this, but would like to work for a nonprofit that fits into the general bleeding-heart liberal type, because like many people, she genuinely wants to help change the world for the better. The picture shows Lisa sitting on Peter the Great's lap in St. Petersburg. Lisa loves to travel.

Contact info: lweinberg@macalester.edu

Sara 'Mad Lib' Gottlieb

Sara Gottlieb is a senior from Woodbridge, CT majoring in psychology and philosophy. Sara began working in the RALI Lab in 2008 and hopes to pursue a career in social cognition. She is interested in topics that intersect both psychology and philosophy; these include moral decision making, the role of emotion in morality, and intuitions regarding intentionality, free will and moral responsibility. Sara likes to run (a lot) and is a member of the cross country and track teams, and you will often find her working/people watching from the library circulation desk. Some of her more obscure interests include KenKen puzzles, juggling, spending time with her fabulous nieces and nephews, and riding roller coasters. She has a weakness for brownie batter and any food made from pumpkins.

Contact info: sgottlieb@macalester.edu

Zoe 'Sir Zoe' Jacobson

Pic of Zoe

Zoe Jacobson ('11) is from NYC and tries to talk about the city at some point in too many of her conversations. She doesn't know where in psych she wants to go yet, so she's trying different things and seeing what works. She enjoys playing ice hockey and rugby and likes developing massive bruises, which works out well as the hobbies seem to coexist nicely. She also volunteers and interacts with kids in as many different settings as possible. Zoe's energy level follows something of a sine curve, which explains a lot about how she acts.

Contact info: sir.zoe@gmail.com

Joe 'Cheeks' Ptacek

pic of Joe

Joe Ptacek (2010) plans to graduate from Macalester College with majors in neuroscience and linguistics. What gives him the creeps at night is thinking about how certain mushy lumps of matter have subjective consciousness. This is also the number one fascination that draws him to the mind sciences. Also in the running are such questions as: how/why did we evolve language? are we really information processing machines? and numerous others. In addition to thinking about the brain, Joe gets a kick out of singing with men, growing hair on his face, taking photographs, showering, and sleeping. He has no well-formed plans for the future.

Contact info: jptacek@macalester.edu

'i' Carly Levin

Carly Levin (2010) majored in psychology with a minor in music. She is particulary interested in cognitive and educational psychology and hopes to someday see all of that reasearch put to good use in our school system. She joined the lab in the spring semester of 2008 and has worked on developmental pragmatics (heading up the research team), If and Only If, Time Shifts, and Rhyme Time. She held the title of Webmaster and trained as an E-prime programer. Some of her other interests include; saxaphone, clarinet, rhythm tap, swing dancing, teaching, technical theater, and glass blowing. She has many asperations for after college but has yet to settle on a single path as of yet.

Contact info: clevin@macalester.edu

Danny 'Table Guy' Lawder

Daniel Lawder (2009) is majoring in Cognitive and Neuroscience Studies and Psychology. As of today, May 5, 2008, he is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life. But he knows that he loves psychology, and he will try to incorporate the wonders of the mind into whatever his career path may be. His interests and hobbies include St. Louis Cardinals baseball, exploring the outdoors, and just chilling out in general.

Contact info:

Matthew 'Molson Golden' Olson

Matthew Olson (2008) was a system's theorist at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota. moLson’s mitochondria relied on cognitive science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and water to fuel their RALI lab activity. moLson’s most pressing plans include: retiring to a badger farm in rural WI, raising his children to play nice with others, and looking at shoes. moLson enjoys music: mashupsremixesandmixtapes mostly.

Contact info:

Laura 'The Hit' Hittle

Laura (2009) is originally from the Washington,DC area and has been with the RALI Lab since fall 2007. She is a Psychology and Neuroscience double major and is still trying to figure out what that means for her future. She is taking the reins of a RALI study this semester, and spends the rest of her time tour guiding, irish dancing, and revelling in Senioritis. 'theHit' has also been known to enjoy anything and everything relating to food.

Contact info:

Courtney 'C-Dazz' Rivers

Courtney Rivers (2008) is a Linguistics major and Psychology minor from western Oklahoma. As a linguist, she is very interested in African languages, especially the tonal languages of Western Africa. She is also interested in the ways in which our perception of language and music intersect and diverge. She also enjoys singing, listening, dancing to, and living a life of jazz.

Contact info:

Emily 'The Boss' Goodman

Emily “The Boss” Goodman (2008) hails from the Chicagoland Area. Like many prominent mobsters of that area, The Boss’s specific role remains elusive, but she is essential to the way things are run. Always one to keep the group on the same page, she has been most interested in studying various modalities of communication, particularly in how these differences can be related to chronological and special distance. The latter aspect is reflected in her other academic love, geography. Recently, this interest has been manifest in research she has done on urban sustainability, with particular attention to the role that conservation psychology can play, which was the subject of her honors project. She leaves the RALI lab for a career in urban planning, where she hopes that her knowledge of cognition and ability to be essential will be made of good use.

Contact info:

Sara 'Kosmo' Kramer

Sara Kramer (2008) has been with the RALI lab for one year. During her time she’s helped out with a variety of projects, including helping other students run participants in their studies. Her previous research project involved studying Spanish-English bilingual speakers and language acquisition. She also worked with Brooke in collaboration with a researcher at Carleton on a project examining the role of common ground in text comprehension. Besides working in the RALI lab, Sara is a building manager in the campus center. In her free time she enjoys speaking Spanish and watching movies. She also recently discovered her passion for dodgeball

Contact info:

Lab Manual & E-Prime

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