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The Predictive Brain

It is often claimed that prediction is a (or the) fundamental principle of human cognition and brain functioning. Research into language processing should be particularly illuminating for testing this claim because linguists have traditionally argued that prediction plays only a minor role in language understanding. This is because of the vast possibility space available to a language user as each word is encountered. We investigate prediction with a special focus on linguistic, individual, and cultural variation. For example, some of our group’s experimental studies show that individual differences in working memory, reading ability, and processing speed predict anticipatory spoken language processing in the visual world. Our group’s experimental data also strongly suggest that multiple mechanisms simultaneously influence anticipation of upcoming linguistic input and that only such a dynamic approach to prediction can capture the language user’s prowess at predictive language processing.