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David Townsend

Professor, Psychology

Dickson Hall 257
BA, University of Michigan
MA, Wayne State University
PhD, Wayne State University
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I measure eye movements during reading to examine the use of structural and semantic information in sentence comprehension. I focus especially on identifying the mechanisms that form an aspectual interpretation of a sentence, the "when, how often, and for how long" of "who did what to whom."


Office Hours


7:30 am - 8:15 am
7:30 am - 8:15 am


7:30 am - 8:15 am
7:30 am - 8:15 am


Research Projects

Eye-Tracking Analysis of Temporal Processing in Sentence Comprehension

This research program examines the time course of the processing of temporal information in sentences. These types of temporal information include aspect, lexical meaning, number information, adverbial phrases, connectives, and pragmatic knowledge about the temporal duration of events. The research seeks to understand the time course of processing these kinds of information, how these processes interact with one another, and how they interact with processing the basic content of a sentence while reading sentences and discourses. The research examines how processing temporal information differs between mature native speakers of English and mature native speakers of Spanish who are learning English as a second language. The primary method of examining the time course of processing is the measurement of eye-tracking behavior during reading. These methods yield various measures that distinguish between the initial processing of some linguistic element and processing that occurs after the comprehender has determine the basic content of the sentence. Four lines of research focus on how comprehenders use different adverbial phrases, number information, pragmatic knowledge, grammatical aspect and connectives within and across sentences to determine a temporal interpretation. The research also uses off-line judgments of meaning and corpus analysis. The long-term objective is to establish a foundation for understanding the processing of temporal information. This research has important health-related implications. By increasing our knowledge of how mature and healthy comprehenders process temporal information, we can improve the social well-being and economic productivity of many Americans. In particular, the knowledge that is gained can be used to improve instructional programs for teaching English as a second language and remedial therapy for victims of acquired aphasia.