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Linguistics and Cognitive Science

Emotional Faces and Cognition: the Effects of Ekman’s Emotional Expressions on Memory

Leyla Tarhan (2013); Mentor(s): Deborah Burke

Abstract: Ekman (Ekman, 1992) developed the Directed Facial Action Task (DFAT), which demonstrated that facial expressions can elicit emotions. The present study investigated whether these emotions have cognitive effects, as found when emotions are elicited in other ways. 38 participants performed the DFAT for happy and sad expressions before recalling neutral, positive and negative images. The Mood Congruent Memory hypothesis predicted that, if the DFAT produces sustained affect, participants should recall more mood-congruent than mood-incongruent images. Some participants performed the DFAT while Galvanic Skin Response, an index of emotional response, was recorded. GSR response correlated with reported mood change in the happy condition, while the difference between mood-congruent and –incongruent memory correlated with reported mood change in the sad condition. However, there is no correlation between GSR and memory. These results show that self-reported emotion but not physiological response was linked to congruency effects in memory for emotional images.
Funding Provided by: Pomona College SURP

It's on the tip of my tongue: Reducing word retrieval failures through initial syllable priming

Sasha Winkler (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Evan Zahniser (2012); Mentor(s): Deborah Burke

Abstract removed upon request.

Well, This is Awkward: Taboo and Sociolinguistic Awkwardness in Arrested Development

Katherine Feller (2013); Mentor(s): Michael Diercks

Abstract: This SURP aims to investigate the phenomena of (socio)linguistic awkwardness in relation to taboo language and subject matter with a specific focus on the comedic television series Arrested Development. Through the lens of Arrested Development the project attempts to explore and define the following: sociocultural and linguistic taboos in modern American society (and their roots where relevant), the concept of awkwardness and awkward situations, sociocultural taboos and their role in creating awkwardness, and how all of these elements come together to create comedic media. The project is advanced in an interdisciplinary manner, relying on theory and literature from linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and cultural studies.
Funding Provided by: Faucett Catalyst Fund (HW); Pomona College Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science (KL)

Awkward Is the New Normal: The Awkwardness Project

Hannah Walhout (2014); Student Collaborator(s): Karen Eisenhauer (2013 PZ); Kaya LeGrand (2015); Chris Leon (2014 PZ); Mentor(s): Michael Diercks; Carmen Fought (PZ)

Abstract: The recent popularity of shows such as Arrested Development, The Office, and Curb Your Enthusiasm encodes a deeper public fascination with the experience of social awkwardness itself. To date, little formal investigation into the experience of awkwardness has been conducted. Drawing on research from disciplines such as linguistic anthropology, pragmatics, social psychology, and more recent interdisciplinary projects such as Enfield and Levinson’s Roots of Human Sociality program, we have developed a working model of awkwardness. Our summer research has produced a framework consisting of several super-categories, such as “face” and “conversation structure,” within which we have classified specific awkwardness triggers – allowing for coding and analysis of individual instances of awkwardness. We have also developed a model of the human experience of awkwardness, which describes how awkwardness plays out in the context of human interaction while taking into account sociocultural frame, interactional norms, and individual cognitive mechanisms.
Funding Provided by: Evelyn B. Craddock McVicar Memorial Fund; Pomona College Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science; Hahn Grant for Teaching with Technology

Chopping Sound: Annotation of Chichewa Texts

Martha Booker Johnson (2013); Additional Collaborator(s): Laura Downing*; Mentor(s): Mary Paster
*Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft/Göteborgs Universitet

Abstract: Chichewa is a tonal Bantu language spoken by about seven million people in Malawi. I annotated two Chichewa texts that had been read aloud by four different speakers. Annotation allows researchers to attach labels to segments of a recorded sound file, making it possible to locate words or phrases needed for analysis. The most challenging aspect of the work is identifying word and phrase boundaries, as words frequently run together in a file and phrase boundaries can change between speakers. The files will be used to conduct research on the interaction between lexical tone, which is a change in pitch that distinguishes two words from one another, and intonation, which is the varying pitch throughout a phrase or sentence that can alter meaning.
Funding Provided by: Oldenborg International Research and Travel Grant

Returning from the Edge: The Revitalization of Xinka

Rodrigo Ranero (2014); Mentor(s): Mary Paster
In collaboration with Consejo del Pueblo Xinka de Guatemala (COPXIG)

Abstract: The language of the non-Mayan Xinka people of Guatemala is nearly extinct. The revitalization of Xinka should be of critical importance in order for this underrepresented minority to reclaim a unique and unjustly lost cultural heritage. In cooperation with the Council of the Xinka People of Guatemala, I carried out a survey of linguistic documents and extracted the most essential aspects of the language’s grammar. With this knowledge, I carried out weekly workshops with Xinka leaders who will train language instructors at select schools in Santa Rosa. We also wrote a beginner’s guide to Xinka focusing on writing and phonology that will be published with support from the OEI. The publishing of two other documents focusing on morphology and syntax has also been funded. The community interest and organizational support for the revitalization of Xinka provides hope for the preservation of valuable linguistic knowledge for future generations.
Funding Provided by: Paul K. Richter and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Funds

Research at Pomona