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Dr. Albert Katz
Social Science Centre 7412
519-661-2111 ext. 82066


Research Activities

My initial scholarly work was on the role of mental imagery in concept formation (You can see the influence of both Al Paivio and Peter Denny here) and I have had a few side interests as well, namely studying individual differences in various cognitive processes. However, the “meat” of my research life has been the study of two (to me, not unrelated topics): (1) the processing of nonliteral language such as metaphor and irony and (2) memory processes, especially everyday memory such as the recall of events in one’s life. In recent years, the main thrust of my research has been to examine the role of social and cultural factors in the processing of nonliteral language, both online and offline. A book on this topic which I co-edited with Herb Colston was published by Erlbaum in 2005.

Currently there are four graduate students, two l working towards their MAs and two toward PhDs, in my laboratory.

Karen Hussey has been exploring production, both in problem solving and in language. In her MA research she employed a very clever communication task in which she demonstrated that the natural use of metaphor in everyday communication can be brought under experimental control. She has extended this work to look at gender effects in communication; the role played by metaphor and has demonstrated hitherto unknown effects of metaphor priming in communication. In addition she and I have published a paper on the role of semantics in an unconscious plagiarism paradigm and are working on collaborative papers dealing with metaphor in conversation. She is expected to complete her PhD by the end of 2008.

John Campbell's research program examines the role of context in inviting a sarcastic understanding of an utterance. He is taking a novel approach to this question by having people construct a discourse around a given statement and through instructional manipulations is asking people to construct a discourse that would invite either a literal or sarcastic reading of the same statement. The contexts so created are then examined to identify empirically the characteristics that discriminate a sarcastic from a literal inviting context. Next up is to use strong sarcastic and strong literal-inviting contexts in online reading tasks to see if sarcasm when appropriately supported in discourse is processed irrespective of the literal (or salient) meaning of the target statement.

Andrea Bowes. Andrea is an MA student just completing her first year. Her work examines the role of sarcasm in communication and has already completed several studies that indicate the buffering effect of sarcasm in some contexts and how it is used in group contexts that discriminates from its use in one-on-one situations. She has used both rating and production tasks and plans to extend this line of research to online processing tasks. Some of her work is to be presented at Psychonomic in Chicago, 2008.We expect her MA will be completed in the spring of 2009.

Polly Choi. Polly is the most recent addition to the lab. She is developing an MA research project around the phenomenon that in memory of real life events (eg the death of Princess Di) , people sometimes “remember” seeing the event in the media, even though there is no filamge of the event per se. Although in its earliest stages, Polly is considering approaching the question of these source memory misattributions within an event structure analysis.

The lab is set up with a small room for group testing, and some computers in which we run on-line reading studies and on which Karen ran her communication studies. My research has been supported by NSERC continuously since 1976, and has, from time to time, also been supported by SSHRC. In addition to the work done directly in my lab, I have actively collaborate with Todd Ferretti (Wilfred Laurier University) and with Dawn Blasko and Vicki Kazmerski (Penn State-Erie) on various projects. These collaborative projects employ both on-line reading procedures and ERP methodology. In addition, I collaborate with students from labs other than my own on topics of mutual interest (eg., Steve Lupker’s student Tamsen Taylor and Chris O’Connor, a student working with Ken McRae).


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