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Dr Anuenue Baker-Kukona

Job: Associate Professor in Quantitative Methods

Faculty: Health and Life Sciences

School/department: School of Applied Social Sciences

Address: De Montfort University, The Gateway, Leicester, LE1 9BH

T: +44 (0)116 250 6184

E: anuenue.baker-kukona@dmu.ac.uk

W: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/appliedsocialsciences

 

Personal profile

Dr Baker-Kukona is a cognitive psychologist. He joined De Montfort University in 2014, following a postdoc at the University of Dundee and PhD at the University of Connecticut. His research focuses on the psychology of language.

Language and cognition

Dr Baker-Kukona’s research investigates the moment-by-moment cognitive processes that support real-time language comprehension. Much of his research uses eye tracking: where we look when we process (spoken) words and sentences can reveal both how we comprehend language in real time and relate this information to the world around us. One aspect of comprehension Dr Baker-Kukona is interested in concerns spatial language: how do we learn and make sense of words and sentences that refer to spatial locations and events (e.g., Kamide, Lindsay, Scheepers, & Kukona, 2016; Kukona, Altmann, & Kamide, 2014)? Another aspect of comprehension he is interested in concerns prediction: how much thinking ahead do we do during language processing, and what do our predictions tell us about the language system (e.g., Kukona, Cho, Magnuson, & Tabor, 2014; Kukona, Fang, Aicher, Chen, & Magnuson, 2011)?

Individual differences

Language comprehension involves a complex array of processes and skills, and comprehenders show tremendous individual differences in language performance. Dr Baker-Kukona is interested in understanding how characteristics such as memory capacity, processing speed and vocabulary size relate to real-time comprehension processes (e.g., Magnuson, et al., 2011; Van Dyke, Johns, & Kukona, 2014).

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Research group affiliations

  • Psychology

Publications and outputs 

  • Lexical constraints on the prediction of form: Insights from the visual world paradigm
    Lexical constraints on the prediction of form: Insights from the visual world paradigm Kukona, Anuenue Two visual world experiments investigated the priming of form (e.g., phonology) during language processing. In Experiment 1, participants heard high cloze probability sentences like “In order to have a closer look, the dentist asked the man to open his…” while viewing visual arrays with objects like a predictable target mouth, phonological competitor mouse and unrelated distractors. In Experiment 2, participants heard target-associated nouns like “dentist” that were isolated from the sentences in Experiment 1 while viewing the same visual arrays. In both experiments, participants fixated the target (e.g., mouth) most, but also fixated the phonological competitor (e.g., mouse) more than unrelated distractors. Taken together, these results are interpreted as supporting association-based mechanisms in prediction, such that activation spreads across both semantics and form within the mental lexicon (e.g., dentist-mouth-mouse) and likewise primes (i.e., pre-activates) the form of upcoming words during sentence processing. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • An Ear And Eye For Language: Mechanisms Underlying Second Language Word Learning
    An Ear And Eye For Language: Mechanisms Underlying Second Language Word Learning Bisson, M. J.; Baker-Kukona, Anuenue; Lengeris, Angelos To become fluent in a second language, learners need to acquire a large vocabulary. However, the cognitive and affective mechanisms that support word learning, particularly among second language learners, are only beginning to be understood. Prior research has focused on intentional learning and small artificial lexicons. In the current study investigating the sources of individual variability in word learning and their underlying mechanisms, participants intentionally and incidentally learned a large vocabulary of Welsh words (i.e., emulating word learning in the wild) and completed a large battery of cognitive and affective measures. The results showed that for both learning conditions, native language knowledge, auditory/phonological abilities and orthographic sensitivity all made unique contributions to word learning. Importantly, short-term/working memory played a significantly larger role in intentional learning. We discuss these results in the context of the mechanisms that support both native and non-native language learning. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version.
  • Activating semantic knowledge during spoken words and environmental sounds: Evidence from the visual world paradigm
    Activating semantic knowledge during spoken words and environmental sounds: Evidence from the visual world paradigm Toon, Josef; Kukona, Anuenue Two visual world experiments investigated the activation of semantically related concepts during the processing of environmental sounds and spoken words. Participants heard environmental sounds such as barking or spoken words such as “puppy” while viewing visual arrays with objects such as a bone (semantically related competitor) and candle (unrelated distractor). In Experiment 1, a puppy (target) was also included in the visual array; in Experiment 2, it was not. During both types of auditory stimuli, competitors were fixated significantly more than distractors, supporting the co-activation of semantically related concepts in both cases; comparisons of the two types of auditory stimuli also revealed significantly greater effects with environmental sounds than spoken words. We discuss implications of these results for theories of semantic knowledge. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Spatial narrative context modulates semantic (but not visual) competition during discourse processing
    Spatial narrative context modulates semantic (but not visual) competition during discourse processing Williams, Glenn P.; Kukona, Anuenue; Kamide, Yuki Recent research highlights the influence of (e.g., task) context on conceptual retrieval. To assess whether conceptual representations are context-dependent rather than static, we investigated the influence of spatial narrative context on accessibility for lexical-semantic information by exploring competition effects. In two visual world experiments, participants listened to narratives describing semantically related (piano-trumpet; Experiment 1) or visually similar (bat-cigarette; Experiment 2) objects in the same or separate narrative locations while viewing arrays displaying these (‘target’ and ‘competitor’) objects and other distractors. Upon re-mention of the target, we analysed eye movements to the competitor. In Experiment 1, we observed semantic competition only when targets and competitors were described in the same location; in Experiment 2, we observed visual competition regardless of context. We interpret these results as consistent with context-dependent approaches, such that spatial narrative context dampens accessibility for semantic but not visual information in the visual world.
  • Individual differences in subphonemic sensitivity and phonological skills
    Individual differences in subphonemic sensitivity and phonological skills Li, Monica Y. C.; Braze, David; Kukona, Anuenue; Johns, Clinton L.; Tabor, Whitney; Van Dyke, Julie A.; Mencl, W. Einar; Shankweiler, Donald P.; Pugh, Kenneth R.; Magnuson, James S. Many studies have established a link between phonological abilities (indexed by phonological awareness and phonological memory tasks) and typical and atypical reading development. Individuals who perform poorly on phonological assessments have been mostly assumed to have underspecified (or “fuzzy”) phonological representations, with typical phonemic categories, but with greater category overlap due to imprecise encoding. An alternative posits that poor readers have overspecified phonological representations, with speech sounds perceived allophonically (phonetically distinct variants of a single phonemic category). On both accounts, mismatch between phonological categories and orthography leads to reading difficulty. Here, we consider the implications of these accounts for online speech processing. We used eye tracking and an individual differences approach to assess sensitivity to subphonemic detail in a community sample of young adults with a wide range of reading-related skills. Subphonemic sensitivity inversely correlated with meta-phonological task performance, consistent with overspecification. open access article
  • The influence of globally ungrammatical local syntactic constraints on real-time sentence comprehension: Evidence from the visual world paradigm and reading
    The influence of globally ungrammatical local syntactic constraints on real-time sentence comprehension: Evidence from the visual world paradigm and reading Kamide, Yuki; Kukona, Anuenue We investigated the influence of globally ungrammatical local syntactic constraints on sentence comprehension, as well as the corresponding activation of global and local representations. In Experiment 1, participants viewed visual scenes with objects like a carousel and motorbike while hearing sentences with noun phrase (NP) or verb phrase (VP) modifiers like “The girl who likes the man (from London/very much) will ride the carousel.” In both cases, “girl” and “ride” predicted carousel as the direct object; however, the locally coherent combination “the man from London will ride…” in NP cases alternatively predicted motorbike. During “ride,” local constraints, although ruled out by the global constraints, influenced prediction as strongly as global constraints: While motorbike was fixated less than carousel in VP cases, it was fixated as much as carousel in NP cases. In Experiment 2, these local constraints likewise slowed reading times. We discuss implications for theories of sentence processing. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • The real-time prediction and inhibition of linguistic outcomes: Effects of language and literacy skill
    The real-time prediction and inhibition of linguistic outcomes: Effects of language and literacy skill Kukona, Anuenue; Braze, David; Johns, Clint L.; Mencl, W. Einar; Van Dyke, Julie A.; Magnuson, James S.; Pugh, Kenneth R.; Shankweiler, Donald P.; Tabor, Whitney Recent studies have found considerable individual variation in language comprehenders’ predictive behaviors, as revealed by their anticipatory eye movements during language comprehension. The current study investigated the relationship between these predictive behaviors and the language and literacy skills of a diverse, community-based sample of young adults. We found that rapid automatized naming (RAN) was a key determinant of comprehenders’ prediction ability (e.g., as reflected in predictive eye movements to a WHITE CAKE on hearing “The boy will eat the white…”). Simultaneously, comprehension-based measures predicted participants’ ability to inhibit eye movements to objects that shared features with predictable referents but were implausible completions (e.g., as reflected in eye movements to a white but inedible WHITE CAR). These findings suggest that the excitatory and inhibitory mechanisms that support prediction during language processing are closely linked with specific cognitive abilities that support literacy. We show that a self-organizing cognitive architecture captures this pattern of results. The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.
  • Event processing in the visual world: Projected motion paths during spoken sentence comprehension
    Event processing in the visual world: Projected motion paths during spoken sentence comprehension Kamide, Yuki; Lindsay, Shane; Scheepers, Christoph; Kukona, Anuenue Motion events in language describe the movement of an entity to another location along a path. In 2 eye-tracking experiments, we found that comprehension of motion events involves the online construction of a spatial mental model that integrates language with the visual world. In Experiment 1, participants listened to sentences describing the movement of an agent to a goal while viewing visual scenes depicting the agent, goal, and empty space in between. Crucially, verbs suggested either upward (e.g., jump) or downward (e.g., crawl) paths. We found that in the rare event of fixating the empty space between the agent and goal, visual attention was biased upward or downward in line with the verb. In Experiment 2, visual scenes depicted a central obstruction, which imposed further constraints on the paths and increased the likelihood of fixating the empty space between the agent and goal. The results from this experiment corroborated and refined the previous findings. Specifically, eye-movement effects started immediately after hearing the verb and were in line with data from an additional mouse-tracking task that encouraged a more explicit spatial reenactment of the motion event. In revealing how event comprehension operates in the visual world, these findings suggest a mental simulation process whereby spatial details of motion events are mapped onto the world through visual attention. The strength and detectability of such effects in overt eye-movements is constrained by the visual world and the fact that perceivers rarely fixate regions of empty space.
  • Knowing what, where, and when: Event comprehension in language processing
    Knowing what, where, and when: Event comprehension in language processing Kukona, Anuenue; Altmann, Gerry T. M.; Kamide, Yuki We investigated the retrieval of location information, and the deployment of attention to these locations, following (described) event-related location changes. In two visual world experiments, listeners viewed arrays with containers like a bowl, jar, pan, and jug, while hearing sentences like “The boy will pour the sweetcorn from the bowl into the jar, and he will pour the gravy from the pan into the jug. And then, he will taste the sweetcorn”. At the discourse-final “sweetcorn”, listeners fixated context-relevant “Target” containers most (jar). Crucially, we also observed two forms of competition: listeners fixated containers that were not directly referred to but associated with “sweetcorn” (bowl), and containers that played the same role as Targets (goals of moving events; jug), more than distractors (pan). These results suggest that event-related location changes are encoded across representations that compete for comprehenders’ attention, such that listeners retrieve, and fixate, locations that are not referred to in the unfolding language, but related to them via object or role information.
  • Low working memory capacity is only spuriously related to poor reading comprehension
    Low working memory capacity is only spuriously related to poor reading comprehension Van Dyke, Julie A.; Johns, Clint L.; Kukona, Anuenue Accounts of comprehension failure, whether in the case of readers with poor skill or when syntactic complexity is high, have overwhelmingly implicated working memory capacity as the key causal factor. However, extant research suggests that this position is not well supported by evidence on the span of active memory during online sentence processing, nor is it well motivated by models that make explicit claims about the memory mechanisms that support language processing. The current study suggests that sensitivity to interference from similar items in memory may provide a better explanation of comprehension failure. Through administration of a comprehensive skill battery, we found that the previously observed association of working memory with comprehension is likely due to the collinearity of working memory with many other reading-related skills, especially IQ. In analyses which removed variance shared with IQ, we found that receptive vocabulary knowledge was the only significant predictor of comprehension performance in our task out of a battery of 24 skill measures. In addition, receptive vocabulary and non-verbal memory for serial order—but not simple verbal memory or working memory—were the only predictors of reading times in the region where interference had its primary affect. We interpret these results in light of a model that emphasizes retrieval interference and the quality of lexical representations as key determinants of successful comprehension.

Click here to view a full listing of Anuenue Baker-Kukona's publications and outputs.

Research interests/expertise

  • Language
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Sentence processing
  • Computational modelling
  • Eye movements
  • Statistics

Areas of teaching

  • Cognitive psychology
  • Research methods
  • Statistics

Qualifications

PhD, MA, BS

Courses taught

  • PSYC1090 Introductory research methods in psychology (Year 1)
  • PSYC1091 Core areas of psychology (Year 1)
  • PSYC2092 Cognitive psychology (Year 2)

Membership of professional associations and societies

  • British Psychological Society
  • Cognitive Science Society
  • Experimental Psychology Society
  • Higher Education Academy

Internally funded research project information

  • Eye tracking in the psychological sciences, Capital equipment, works and IT/AV, SR Research EyeLink 1000 Plus, 2015-2016, Sponsor.
  • Electroencephalography: Understanding brain and behaviour, Research Capital Investment Fund (RCIF2), BioSemi ActiveTwo, 2014-2015, Investigator, Coulthard, H., Hall, J., Lopes, B., Song, J., Van den Tol, A., & Yu, H.

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