New paper: Sentence completion norms for 3085 English sentences

As speech researchers we are often interested in how the context in which a word appears influences its processing. For example, in a noisy environment, the word "cat" might be confused with other, similar sounding words ("cap", "can", "hat", etc.). However, in that same noisy environment, if it were in a sentence such as "The girl did not like dogs but she loved her pet cat", it would be much easier to recognize: The preceding sentence context limits the number of sensible ways to finish the sentence.

One way to measure how predictable a word is at the end of a sentence is to ask people to guess what it is. So, for example, people might see the sentence "The girl did not like dogs but she loved her pet _______" and be asked to write down the first word that comes to mind in finishing the sentence. The proportion of people giving a particular word is then taken to indicate the probability of that word. If 99 out of 100 people (99%) think the sentence ends with "cat", we might assume a 0.99 probability for "cat" being the final word.

Unfortunately, using this approach means that as researchers we are generally limited by the lists of available sentences with this sort of data. A few years ago we discovered we needed a greater variety of sentences for an experiment, and thus was born our new set of norms. Over the course of a summer, undergraduate students in the lab created 3085 sentences. We broke these up into lists of 50 sentences and recruited participants online to fill in sentence-final words. We got at least 100 responses for each sentence: a total of 309 participants (many of whom did more than one list), and over 325,000 total responses.

We then wrote some Python code to tally the responses, including manually checking all of the responses to correct typos, etc. Our hope is that with this large number of sentences and target words, researchers will be able to select stimuli that meet their needs for a variety of experiments.

(Although the norms are available on OSF, we are working on making a more user-friendly search interface...hopefully, coming soon.)

Peelle, J. E., Miller, R., Rogers, C. S., Spehar, B., Sommers, M., & Van Engen, K. J. (2019, September 4). Completion norms for 3085 English sentence contexts.

#snlmtg17photo contest winners!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the unofficial photo contest at the Society for the Neurobiology of Language conference! There were a lot of great entries but I've managed to select some winners.

Grand prize

The top prize goes to Ethan Weed for this beautiful picture of a brain coral. This ticks all the boxes: a beautiful picture, from a memorable reception, and...BRAINS (even if they're coral)!

Runners up

Conference photo contest! #snlmtg17photo

Going to the annual meeting of the Society for the Neurobiology of Language in Baltimore? Get ready for the first ever conference photo contest! Show off your artistic skill, sense of humor, and creativity while at the conference.


  1. Enter by posting a photo on twitter with the hashtag #snlmtg17photo between 9am (Eastern Time) Tuesday, November 7th and Noon on Friday November 10th, 2017.
  2. The photo must be taken while attending the Society for the Neurobiology of Language meeting (to keep it fun) but can be from any location (including travel to or from Baltimore).
  3. You can enter as many times as you would like.
  4. There are no restrictions on filters, collages, stickers, or any other manipulation to the photo.
  5. Judging will be entirely subjective and done by me (@jpeelle) although I may ask for some unofficial input from a secret panel of helper judges. Members of my lab are ineligible for prizes (but can still post photos).


Let's be honest—the main prize is bragging rights and the admiration of your friends when I announce it on Twitter. The grand prize will also include a certificate and some small token of appreciation.


This is just for fun and completely unofficial and unendorsed by the society. Please don't do anything stupid or dangerous or inappropriate to get a cool photograph.


Graduating seniors 2017

This year we bid goodbye to a record number of graduating seniors: Nisha, Nisha, Joseph, Jonathan, Rebecca, and Tracy. And to our AuD student Jeni, who completed her capstone research project and is off to an externship next year. Thanks to all of you for your contributions to the lab over the past few years! You'll be missed!