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A psycholinguist is a social scientist who studies psycholinguistics, which connects psychology and linguistics. Psycholinguistics is interdisciplinary in nature and is studied by people in a variety of fields, such as, psychology, cognitive science, linguistics, neuroscience and many more. The main aim of psycholinguistics is to outline and describe the process of producing and comprehending communication.

Education and training[edit]

More specifically, a psycholinguist studies language, speech production, and comprehension by using behavioral and neurological methods traditionally developed in the field of psychology, but other methods such as corpus analysis are also widely used. Psycholinguists typically receive undergraduate degrees in linguistics or psychology and then seek a higher degree. Psycholinguistics is not usually a degree of its own; graduate degrees range from scientific studies to criminal justice. The majority of students who become psycholinguists receive a master's degree or a Ph.D.; however, there are also some opportunities available for those who choose not to attend graduate school.[1]


Psycholinguists currently represent a widely diverse field. Many psycholinguists are also considered to be neurolinguists, cognitive linguists, neurocognitive linguists, or are associated with those who are. There are subtle differences between the titles, though they are all attempting to use different facets of similar issues. Psycholinguists are sometimes categorized into separate groups by the models and theories in which they believe. The two main groups, either interactive or autonomous, are based on ideas of language processing. Psycholinguists who support the interactive side, believe that our levels of processing for language work side-by-side and share information as words are received. The other argument is the autonomous side, which believes that the levels of processing for language occur independent of one another.[2]

When conducting research, psycholinguists use a variety of techniques that can involve qualitative and/or quantitative data. Typical methods of research include: observation (language recording), experimentation (issuing language tests), and self-reports (participants report what they are experiencing). The research tends to result in either theoretical evidence or a realistic application.[3]

Professional associations[edit]

There are many associations that include professionals in the psycholinguist field worldwide, such as the following:

  • Linguistic Society of America: started in 1924 with the goal of furthering scientific linguistic studies, and has come to include all subsets of the linguistic field including psycholinguistics.[4]
  • Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics: located in The Netherlands; it is a subset of the Max Planck Society that focuses solely on psycholinguistics, making it a one-of-a-kind institution.[5]
  • International Society of Applied Psycholinguistics (ISAPL): an international organization founded in 1982 that is devoted to furthering research and teaching in the field of psycholinguistics.[6]
  • American Association for Applied Linguistics: an association founded in 1977 for professionals interested in contributing to the vast field of linguistics.[7]


  • Eric Lennenberg (1921-1975): a German-born psycholinguist who completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, and continued on to receive a Ph.D. in linguistics, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Harvard.[8]
  • Roger Brown (1925-1997): attended the University of Michigan where he received a Ph.D. in psychology. and went on to work with Lenneberg to research and study linguistic relativity.[8]
  • Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920): known as "the father of experimental psychology," Wundt was a man of many interests and contributed to several areas of psychology including psycholinguistics.
  • Susan Ervin Tripp (1927-1955): a notable woman in the profession, Ervin-Tripp was a founding member of psycholinguistics as a field within the realm of cognitive psychology.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What can you do with a Linguistics degree?". Northeastern University.
  2. ^ Field, John. Psycholinguistics: A Resource Book for Students. Psychology Press. p. 69.
  3. ^ Field, John. Psycholinguistics: A Resource Book for Students. Psychology Press. p. 49.
  4. ^ "Linguistic Society of America". Linguistic Society of America.
  5. ^ "Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics". Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.
  6. ^ "International Society of Applied Psycholinguistics". International Society of Applied Psycholinguistics.
  7. ^ "American Association for Applied Linguistics". American Association for Applied Linguistics.
  8. ^ a b Levelt, Willem. A History of Psycholinguistics: The Pre-Chomskyan Era. OUP Oxford. p. 500.
  9. ^ Slobin, Dan; Gerhardt, Julie; Kyratzis, Amy; Guo, Jiansheng. Social Interaction, Social Context, and Language (PDF). Psychology Press.