Rachel Ostrand  Rachel Ostrand photo       

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Psycholinguist Extraordinaire
Thomas J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, NY USA



I am a cognitive scientist, specifically focusing in psycholinguistics - the study of speech production and comprehension. I am interested in how speech changes as a function of the context, and specifically, how speakers and listeners adapt their language processing to the characteristics of their particular partner. There is adaptation both on the comprehension side - for example, listeners expect to hear higher-frequency (i.e., easier) words from a 2-year-old than from an adult, as well as on the production side - for example, speakers engage in alignment, when they modulate characteristics of their own speech to converge upon those characteristics of their listener's speech.

At IBM, I'm doing research on using language production to diagnose cognitive diseases and disorders. Language is an extremely rich signal, and is highly variable, and can be a signal of the speaker's underlying cognitive state. Attentional load, distraction, memory - all affect characteristics of people's speech. Speakers and listeners exploit the massive variability of language in order to improve communication. We hope to exploit that variability, as well as that exploitation of variability, to diagnose cognitive disorders.