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Department Faculty

Nikole Patson-Huffman

I am an Assistant Professor at the Marion Campus of The Ohio State University. I completed my undergraduate work at the University of Michigan-Flint. I earned my Master’s degree from Michigan State University and earned my Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. I am looking forward to returning to the Midwest.

At The Ohio State University-Marion, I will be teaching General Psychology, Cognition and Memory, Perception, Language and the Mind, and Language Development. I also look forward to supervising students’ independent studies and honors’ theses related to language comprehension.

My research focuses on adult language comprehension. The act of comprehending a sentence usually feels effortless and simple. However, it is not uncommon for comprehenders to make mistakes they aren’t aware of. One common cause of this kind of mistake is that comprehenders sometimes leave words or even syntactic structures underspecified (e.g., Patson, Darowski, Moon, & Ferreira, 2009). For example, someone who read “this work fills an important gap in the literature” as indicating that the work is important, would have committed this kind of error. This interpretation follows from a shallow reading that combines the related and expected concepts of importance, work, and filling gaps, but fails to specify the crucial relationship between “important” and “gap”. I am interested in what factors contribute to when and how often sentence comprehenders leave information underspecified, leading to these kinds of errors. My work is informed by formal linguistics as well as cognitive psychology.

My research has focused on the conceptual representation of plurals. For example, consider the sentence The cats slept on the rug. When a comprehender hears this sentence what conceptual representation is built for “cats”? The plural referent cats could be left underspecified and represented as a single, non-differentiated group or it could be fully specified and thus represented as a set of differentiated cats. This question is important because if plurals are left underspecified, this could have implications for future processing. For example, if later the individuals in the plural need to be accessed, comprehension may slow down in order to individuate the entities in the plural, if it had not been previously done.


Marion, OH 43302
(740) 725-6244