Opinion: Do domain-general executive resources play a role in linguistic prediction? Re-evaluation of the evidence and a path forward


Most current accounts of language comprehension agree on a role for prediction, but they disagree on the importance of domain-general executive resources in predictive behavior. In this opinion piece, we briefly review the evidence for linguistic prediction, and the findings that have been used to argue that prediction draws on domain-general executive resources. The most compelling evidence is an apparent reduction in predictive behavior during language comprehension in populations with lower executive resources, such as children, older adults, and second language (L2) learners. We propose that these between-population differences can be explained without invoking executive resources. Instead, differences in the quantity and kind of language experience that these populations bring to bear may affect the probability of engaging in predictive behavior, or simply make prediction effects more difficult to detect in paradigms designed for young adult native speakers. Thus, domain-specific prediction mechanisms remain a viable possibility. We discuss ways to further test accounts of linguistic prediction that do vs. do not require domain-general executive resources, using behavioral, computational, and brain imaging approaches.