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Dr Lewis Bott BSc, PhD

Dr Lewis Bott

BSc, PhD

Reader

School of Psychology

Email:
bottla@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 4938
Location:
Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AT

Research summary

How do we make inferences in language? How do we imply? What makes figurative language, such as metaphors, different to literal language? How do we integrate linguistic and visual context with sentences? How is lying different to telling the truth? I study these sorts questions using psycholinguistic techniques such as eyetracking, speeded sentence judgments, and production tasks. 

My focus is on psycholinguistics and linguistic pragmatics but I also apply this knowledge to real world problems. One example is how to reduce exageration of science in the media. We investigate where exageration comes from (Journalists? Scientists? Press Officers?) and what techiques could be helpful to reduce it, such as caveats ("One limitation of this study is that...") or qualifying expressions such as "may" or "might" in headlines ("Vitamin D may help reduce cancer"). Another example is the use of language in public heatlth campaigns. We test different linguistic methods of encouraging heathy behaviour, such as "myth-busting" campaigns about flu vaccines, with the aim of improving health communication.

Undergraduate education

1992 – 1995. BSc (J. Hons). Mathematics and Psychology, University of   Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Postgraduate education

1998 – 2001. PhD, Psychology University of Warwick
Supervised by Dr. E.   Heit and Prof. G.D.Brown
Thesis title: Prior Knowledge and Statistical   Models of Categorization

1995 – 1996. MSc. Cognitive Science, University of Birmingham
Thesis   title: The Effects of Race and Typicality on an Exemplar-Based Connectionist   Model of Face Processing

Employment

October 2011: promoted to Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University, UK. 2005 – 2011: Lecturer, Cardiff University, UK. June 2003 – June 2005: Postdoctoral Researcher, New York University, with Professor Gregory Murphy. Experimental pragmatics and category learning. April 2001 - April 2003. Postdoctoral Researcher, Institut des Sciences Cognitive, Lyon, France, with Dr. Ira Noveck. Experimental pragmatics. Oct 1996 - Jan 1998: Research Associate at the Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, with Dr. Evan Heit. Jan 1998 - April 2001: Statistics tutor. University of Warwick, UK. Summers 1998 and 1999: Open University Summer School tutor. Artificial Intelligence module.

2018

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Research topics and related papers

I study how we understand and process language. My focus is on linguistic pragmatics and psycholonguistics, in particular implications. Implications are components of meaning that are not present in the literal interpretation of a sentence. Our mind enriches the basic meaning of a sentence by using the context and some basic assumptions about how conversations work. For example, consider the following exchange:

Rachel: Have you met Helen's new boyfriend, John? He rich and intellgent.

Catherine: Well, he's rich...

Here, Catherine communicates that John is not intelligent. But there is nothing in her words that says this. We assume that if Catherine had agreed with Rachel she would have said so, and that because she didn't, she must disagree.

Consider another example:

"John broke all his arms"

This sentence is strange. There is nothing wrong with it in a literal sense, but it implies that John had more than two arms to break, which, unless he was an octopuss, would be unusual. The implication is so strong it arises even when it is inconsistent with the real world. 

My work involves investigating how the mind computes implications like those above. I use standard psycholinguistic takes techniques such as eyetracking, speeded sentence judgements and production tasks. The goal is to develop a processing model that integrates how we understand and produce literal language with how we infer and imply. 

I have worked on a variety of different areas in pragmatics including scalar implicatures (Bott & Noveck, 2004; Bott, Bailey, & Grodner, 2010; Bott & Chemla, 2016; Rees & Bott, 20), presuppositions (Chemla & Bott, 2014) and lying (Williams et al., 2014). Ongoing projects investigate the psycholingistics of how implications are produced, as opposed to understood.

I also work in several applied areas relating to language and cognition. I have several projects reducing exageration in the media (Sumner et al., 2016; Adams et al., 2016), and public health aspects of communication, such as flu vaccination campaigns.

Postgraduate research interests

I am interested in supervising work on language processing. My research is  focussed on pragmatics, figurative language, and linguistic communication. I am  particularly interested in supervising students who may have completed a  linguistics or a philosophy of language degree and who wish to branch out into  psycholinguistics. Currently I am looking for somebody to work on the following  projects:

How does the language system integrate visual and auditory information?
How does short term memory interact with linguistic pragmatics?
Why is lying so easy?
How are presuppositions and implicatures processed and represented?
Can connectionist models simulate pragmatic maxims?

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, in any of these areas, or for further information  regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.