Psycholinguistics Lab

The psycholinguistics lab at ZAS is an interdisciplinary team effort that aims at investigating language acquisition, production and comprehension by using traditional and cutting-edge experimental methodologies informed by formal linguistic theory. Members of the lab have a wide range of expertise interest varying from spoken-language processing, lexical processing, experimental semantics and pragmatics, discourse coherence, and game-theoretical approaches to discourse and pragmatics.

The lab developed out of a growing interest at ZAS for the use of psycholinguistic methods to test between formal theories in the fields of semantics and pragmatics, and has now expanded into other areas of research such as exploratory work on the phonology/pragmatics interface and the study of discourse phenomena at word and sentence level. Established in early 2015, the lab now has access to a large participant pool thanks to collaboration between the ZAS and the Humboldt University. Additionally, the lab is equipped with four individual work stations, which makes it possible to test multiple subjects simultaneously, resulting in a highly efficient collection of experimental data in a short period of time.

The lab team collaborates closely with other linguists and psycholinguists from the Humboldt University, the Free University of Berlin and the University of Potsdam, as well as with members of the network, which fosters scientists from around the country.

The experiments conducted involve the recording of reaction times, reading times, eye gaze movements and mouse movements, as well as offline measures such as acceptability and grammaticality judgements. Likewise, the lab also has the capacity to run collaborative "game" oriented experiments between multiple participants in real time over a local network.

In addition to testing participants, the lab is also meant to be a place where ZAS researchers and external collaborators can work on their own projects. For this reason, we provide assistance with the designing and executing of experiments, as well as with data analysis. Regular lab meetings are also an opportunity for researchers to present and discuss ongoing projects as well as fostering training in experimental methodologies and statistics for students, post-docs, and junior/senior researchers.

Methods and Software


E-Prime offers both a very flexible and robust user interference for programming experiments with both simple and complex trial and block designs. It allows the experimenter to present participants with text, images, sound-files, and videos both separately or simultaneously. E-Prime also simplifies data preprocessing in that users can choose a specific type of data (accuracy, reaction times, etc.) to be exported into different type of output files (usually in .csv or .txt format). E-Prime can also be used to record audio and create sound files to examine language production as well as integrating voice keys as response options.

Tobii Eye tracker

The lab is equipped with a Tobii T60 eye tracking station, which together with the corresponding Tobii STUDIO software allows for the planning and executing of experiments and the analysis of eye tracking data. Additionally, the Tobii extension packages for the E-Prime software serve as a smooth integration between the eye tracker and E-Prime, which gives researchers much more flexibility regarding stimuli presentation and onset, defining areas/regions of interest, and a more defined sampling of eye-movements, e.g. only at selected parts of the experimental trial.


Mousetracker is a software program made available by Prof. Jon Freeman from NYU which allows for real-time sampling of participants mouse-movements. In a mousetracking experiment, participants are forced to make a choice between two or more options on a computer screen by clicking on one of them with the mouse after being presented with either written or auditory input or both. This allows researchers to retrace the psychological decision-making process by examining the event related changes in mouse trajectories. Currently, more than 2,000 researchers worldwide are registered users of Mousetracker. The official mousetracker website,, offers tutorials as well as a bibliography of peer-reviewed research articles on a wide array of topics that have made use of mousetracking technology.


The psycholinguistics lab team

John Tomlinson coordinates the experiments in the Lab.

With four individual work stations subjects can be tested simultaneously.