Fault-tolerant comprehension

Lawrence Taylor, Rolf Zwaan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


When you read about a person double-lutzing off a cliff, your ability to understand what is described depends on your experience and world knowledge. Most people will at least surmise that the person is a death-defying thrill-seeker and imagine a precipice. Winter sports aficionados might peg the double-lutzer as a suicidal ice-skater, picture an icy cliff, and note that sticking the landing will be exceptionally tricky. In addition to this, a professional figure-skater might mentally simulate the process of building up speed, jumping, and completing two revolutions while airborne or recall the last time he completed a double-lutz. This example illustrates two aspects of language comprehension that we will highlight in this chapter. First, the depth of a person’s understanding of a described event depends upon her experience and world knowledge. Second, as a reader’s relevant knowledge decreases, his understanding of an event does not suddenly disappear, but degrades grace - fully. That is, comprehension is a fault-tolerant process in which different people with various degrees of experience understand event descriptions at different levels of depth and granularity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage and Action in Cognitive Neuroscience
EditorsYann Coello, Angela Bartolo
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPsychology Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780203095508
ISBN (Print)9781848720824
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2012

Publication series

NameContemporary Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience
PublisherPsychology Press


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