As part of a research team led by colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics (Nijmegen, The Netherlands), department member Sebastian Sauppe published a paper on the timing of turn-taking in dialogue in Frontiers in Psychology, titled “The Timing of Utterance Planning in Task-Oriented Dialogue: Evidence from a Novel List-Completion Paradigm[SS1] ”. In this article, they introduce a new experimental paradigm, which allows to investigate language processing in a natural yet controlled conversational setting.
The research team went to explore when speakers start to plan their own turn in conversation. In their experiment, German-speaking participants played a game in which they had to name objects on a computer screen together with a confederate. The participants did not know, however, that most of the confederate’s utterances were pre-recorded. This allowed the researchers to manipulate the structure of the sentences.
Based on eye tracking and speech onset analyses, Sauppe and his colleagues found that speakers start to plan their utterances as soon as they know what they are going to say and as soon as they have understood the message of what their interlocutor wants to tell them. This helps people to keep up the high pace in dialogues, since switching from listening to speaking (“turn-taking”) takes on average only 200 ms.