In the eye of the listener: Pupil dilation elucidates discourse processing
The current study investigated cognitive resource allocation in discourse processing by means of pupil dilation and behavioral measures. Short question–answer dialogs were presented to listeners. Either the context question queried a new information focus in the successive answer, or else the context query was corrected in the answer sentence (correction information). The information foci contained in the answer sentences were either adequately highlighted by prosodic means or not. Participants had to judge the adequacy of the focus prosody with respect to the preceding context question. Prosodic judgment accuracy was higher in the conditions bearing adequate focus prosody than in the conditions with inadequate focus prosody. Latency to peak pupil dilation was longer when new information foci were perceived compared to correction foci. Moreover, for the peak dilation, an interaction of focus type and prosody was found. Post hoc statistical tests revealed that prosodically adequate correction focus positions were processed with smaller peak dilation in comparison to all other dialog conditions. Thus, pupil dilation and results of a principal component analysis suggest an interaction of focus type and focus prosody in discourse processing.