Tilburg center for Cognition and Communication (TiCC)

We study how people communicate with each other and how computer systems can be taught to communicate with us.


Language, Communication and Cognition

Program leaders

Prof. dr. E. Krahmer
Prof. dr. M. Swerts

Program description

The Language, Communication and Cognition research (LCC) program explores cognitive, functional and social aspects of human communication through a multidisciplinary approach for a broad variety of domains. It investigates the process of information exchange between sender and receiver in terms of the content of information, the packaging of information, and the context within which the information exchange takes place. A key notion of the program is that communication, between humans and between humans and machines, is viewed as a highly flexible and adaptive form of social interaction, in which language plays a central role.

The research in this program centers around four subthemes deemed to be central for human communication.

Communication operates through different modes

Beside language (both in its written and spoken form) as the principal instrument for communication, humans also exploit other media (e.g., graphics, pictures, emoticons, diagrams, digital media), and other modalities than text and speech (e.g., body language, gesture, prosody) for communicative purposes. Projects in this theme address the characteristics of different unimodal and multimodal forms of communication, as well as the interplay between different modes.

Communication serves different purposes

Humans communicate with each other for a variety of reasons, e.g., to inform, to instruct, to persuade, to deceive, to teach, to learn, to negotiate, to summarize, to express attitudes or emotions, to bond socially. Different purposes are associated with different communicative strategies and the role of language in these strategies varies as well. Projects in this theme study how humans try to establish these cognitive, affective and behavioral goals through strategic choices in their forms of interaction.

Communication is targeted to specific audiences

Humans adapt their communicative acts to specific addressees, as they change their communicative style to the age, gender, culture, personality, and possibly even the challenges of their addressee. They also take into account whether the addressee is a human or a machine. Projects in this theme study the underlying mechanisms of such different forms of adaptation, and how these influence language understanding and production (e.g., referring expressions, gestures) as well as communicative success.

Communication functions in different settings

The way humans communicate is highly context-dependent, given that different interactive settings exhibit different communicative norms and conventions. This applies to communication in institutional contexts (e.g., public information, business communication, health communication, television debates), but also to communication in social settings, for instance via new media (e.g., social networking, (micro-)blogging). Projects in this theme aim to understand causes and effects of different forms of communication in different institutional and social contexts.