Word predictability blurs the lines between production and comprehension: Evidence from the production effect in memory

Joost Rommers*, Gary S. Dell, Aaron S. Benjamin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
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Predictions about likely upcoming input may promote rapid language processing, but the mechanisms by which such predictions are generated remain unclear. One hypothesis is that comprehenders use their production system to covertly produce what they would say if they were the speaker. If reading predictable words involves covert production, this act might have consequences for memory. The present study capitalized on the production effect, which is the observation that words read aloud are remembered better than words read silently. Participants read sentence-final predictable and unpredictable words aloud or silently, followed by a surprise recognition memory task. If reading predictable words involves covert production, the memory improvement from actually producing the words should be smaller for predictable words than for unpredictable words. This was confirmed in Experiment 1, which tested item memory using old/new judgments. Experiment 2 followed the same procedure, except that participants now made aloud/silent judgments probing their memory for prior acts of production. Here the hypothesis was that, relative to unpredictable words, it should be more difficult to remember whether predictable words had been read aloud or silently. Indeed, word predictability tended to make it harder to tell the difference, suggesting that predictability blurred the lines between production and comprehension. Taken together, the findings support the idea that reading predictable words can involve covert production and show that this act has consequences for what readers retain.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104206
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

We are grateful to Faith Tan for data collection and speech onset measurements, and to Opal Harshe for data collection. JR was supported by the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO) grant 275-89-032. NWO played no role in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the writing of the report, or in the decision to submit the article for publication.


  • sentence comprehension
  • word production
  • recognition memory
  • production effect
  • Recognition memory
  • Word production
  • Production effect
  • Sentence comprehension


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