Our rich, embodied experiences are compressed, structured and extended by a symbolic system called language so we can think and communicate efficiently and creatively.

For example, if I want to talk about an iconic Italian food, I do not have to mime, or draw a round-shaped bread with toppings every single time. I just say ‘pizza’, and you know what it is. It is very efficient.

We are very interested in how sentence prosody (i.e. intonation, rhythm) interacts with syntactic processing and how structural representations are implemented in neurocognitive systems. We also work on attention models of eye movements in reading, how reading direction of a language (e.g,. English vs. Hebrew) affects the spatial representation of sentence meaning, and how subject-prominent languages (e.g., English) vs. topic-prominent languages (e.g., Mandarin Chinese) may be represented in different structures.

Psycholinguistics is a hard science and great fun, according to psycholinguists. People have been playing with languages for decades yet there are still many questions that baffle us to this day, for instance:

  • Is attention allocated to single words serially or to multiple words in parallel in reading (debate is still ongoing)?

  • Is syntactic structure ’embodied’ in prosody (a sensory experience)?

  • Does syntactic flexibility (i.e. some languages have flexible word order) reflect flexibility in the structural representation?

  • How is hierarchical structure (e.g., sentences with sub-clauses) represented neurocomputationally?

If you are a geek who is into good old psycholinguistics, and want to work together, please do get in touch :)

Last Topic (Embodied Cognition)
Next Topic (Inner Speech)

Example Papers

(2019). The Glasgow Norms: Ratings of 5,500 words on nine scales. Behavior Research Methods, 51(3), 1258-1270.


(2018). Testing the limits of contextual constraint: Interactions with word frequency and parafoveal preview during fluent reading. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 71(1), 302-313.


(2018). Differential emotional processing in concrete and abstract words. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 44(7), 1064-1074.


(2015). Emotion word processing: Does mood make a difference?. Frontiers in Psychology, 6:1191.


Bo Yao
Bo Yao
Cognitive Neuroscientist

Cognitive Neuroscience of Language