I am primarily interested in the questions of how the human mind processes language and how language is represented in long-term memory. My research intersects with various areas of linguistics, psychology, and related disciplines. In my dissertation, I focused on the retrieval and mental representation of lexically ambiguous words. I am very much interested in the processing of homonyms and irregular polysemes. Working in the Psycholinguistics Lab together with Jean-Pierre Koenig and Gail Mauner, I conducted a number of word recognition experiments manipulating meaning frequency and meaning relatedness (among other factors). I also used eye tracking experiments in a larger project together with Stephani Foraker from Buffalo State College and elicited event-related brain potentials to approach lexical ambiguity resolution. In another project at UB, I investigated negative compatibility effects (NCEs). Researchers have shown that inhibition can occur where priming is expected, provided that stimuli are presented near conscious awareness and immediately replaced by a sufficiently long backward mask. We found that NCEs are not restricted to low-level purely visual features of the materials (such as arrows and squares). They can involve processes specific to word meaning representation.
As part of my postdoctoral training in Cologne, I am leading a project on referent management together with Klaus von Heusinger. We use visual world eye tracking paradigms, ERPs, and sentence continuation tasks to investigate which formal and conceptual properties of referential expressions can affect referent management in discourse comprehension and planning. We developed and are presently testing a Dual-process Activation Model that distinguishes two aspects of referent introduction: Concept activation and referent activation. My research on referent management also involves work with Stefan Hinterwimmer on demonstrative pronouns in German.
Finally, I have increasingly become interested in pupil size measures as an index of recognition memory, visual attention, and language processing. Together with Tim Graf, I have conducted a number of old/new experiments manipulating properties of the tested materials and properties of the implemented task. Our data suggest that pupil old/new effects reflect the activation or recruitment of memory traces and are, perhaps, strongly related to the intentional use of memory rather than to its automatic use. In very recent work and together with Petra Schumacher and Franziska Kretzschmar, I aim at using pupillometry to test sentence comprehension.