Nikole Patson-Huffman
Assistant Professor of Psychology
The Ohio State University at Marion

Psycholinguistics:  The Psychology of Language

Ohio State Marion's Dr. Patson-Huffman's research focuses on adult language comprehension. The act of comprehending a sentence usually feels effortless and simple. However, it is not uncommon for comprehenders to make mistakes they aren’t aware of. One common cause of this kind of mistake is that comprehenders sometimes leave words or even syntactic structures underspecified (e.g., Patson, Darowski, Moon, & Ferreira, 2009). For example, someone who read “this work fills an important gap in the literature” as indicating that the work is important, would have committed this kind of error. This interpretation follows from a shallow reading that combines the related and expected concepts of importance, work, and filling gaps, but fails to specify the crucial relationship between “important” and “gap”. She is interested in what factors contribute to when and how often sentence comprehenders leave information underspecified, leading to these kinds of errors. Professor Patson-Huffman's work is informed by formal linguistics as well as cognitive psychology.

Her research has focused on the conceptual representation of plurals. For example, consider the sentence The cats slept on the rug. When a comprehender hears this sentence what conceptual representation is built for “cats”? The plural referent cats could be left underspecified and represented as a single, non-differentiated group or it could be fully specified and thus represented as a set of differentiated cats. This question is important because if plurals are left underspecified, this could have implications for future processing. For example, if later the individuals in the plural need to be accessed, comprehension may slow down in order to individuate the entities in the plural, if it had not been previously done.

Nikole Patson-Huffman is Assistant Professor at the Marion Campus of The Ohio State University. She completed her undergraduate work at the University of Michigan-Flint and earned a Master’s degree from Michigan State University. She completed her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011.

Nikole Patson-Huffman teaches general psychology, cognition and memory, perception, language and the mind, and language development courses at The Ohio State University at Marion. In addition, she supervises students’ independent studies and honors’ theses related to language comprehension.

Recent Publications

Patson, N.D., and Warren, T. (2011). Building complex reference objects from dual sets. Journal of Memory and Language, 64, 443-459.

Warren, T., Reichle, E. D., and Patson, N. D. (2011). Lexical and post-lexical complexity effects on eye movements in reading. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 4, 1-10.

Patson, N. D., and Warren, T. (2010 a). Evidence for distributivity effects in comprehension. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 36, 782-789.

Patson, N. D., and Warren, T. (2010 b). Eye movements to plausibility violations: Do theta-assignment and locality influence the speed of semantic integration? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 63, 1516-1532.

Patson, N. D., Darowski, E. S., Moon, N., and Ferreira, F. (2009). Individual differences in garden-path interpretation: Evidence for the lingering activation of the inappropriate analyses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 35, 280-285.

Patson, N. D., and Ferreira, F. (2009). Conceptual plural information is used to guide early parsing decisions: Evidence from garden-path sentences with reciprocal verbs. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 464-486.

Ferreira, F., and Patson, N. D. (2007). The ‘Good Enough’ approach to language comprehension. Language and Linguistics Compass, 1, 71-83.

Cain, K., Patson, N. D., and Andrews, L. (2005). Age- and ability-related differences in young readers’ use of conjunctions. Journal of Child Language, 32, 877-892.