Understanding written and spoken language is a central component of modern life, but language comprehension is a complex and multifaceted process. Comprehension is afforded, in part, by the brain’s ability to make predictions about likely upcoming input. Much of my research is focused on uncovering the dynamics of prediction mechanisms as well as the downstream consequences of predictions. To this end I have made extensive use of event-related potentials (ERPs) throughout my graduate work, and I also have additional experience with eye-tracking and other behavioral measures. My work thus takes a cognitive science approach to studying these complex processes as they overlap with other domains.
Prediction dynamics in language comprehension
My dissertation work explores the circumstances in which prediction strategies are prioritized or reduced to meet different comprehension goals or adapt to the language environment.
Lai, M.K., Payne, B.R., Federmeier, K.D. (resubmitted to Psychophysiology). Graded and ungraded expectations: Prediction dynamics during active comprehension.
Lai, M.K., Federmeier, K.D., “Graded and ungraded expectations: Prediction dynamics during active comprehension”. Society for Psychophysiological Research Annual Meeting. October 2022. Student Poster Award winner. Download PDF
Downstream consequences of prediction error
The processing benefits of correct predictions are well-documented, but the consequences of prediction errors are still unclear. My master's work explored the downstream memory consequences of incorrect predictions, by probing implicit and explicit memory for words that were previously read as prediction violations. The results of this work showed that prediction violations do not have heavy downstream memory consequences.
Lai, M. K., Rommers, J., & Federmeier, K. D. (2021). The fate of the unexpected: Consequences of misprediction assessed using ERP repetition effects. Brain Research, 147290. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2021.147290
Lai, M.K., Federmeier, K.D., “The Fate of the Unexpected: Downstream repetition effects for prediction violations”. Society for Psychophysiological Research Annual Meeting. October 2020. Student Poster Award winner. Download PDF
Read an interview about this poster here.