Miscommunication is often seen as something that should be avoided when communicating. When individuals perceive the conversation to be filled with communication errors, there is often a feeling of disappointment because effective communication is essential to social interaction. However, the current project seeks to argue that miscommunication is not always problematic for conversation. Specifically, we used eye-tracking and psycho-linguistic methods to show that miscommunication beneficially impacts our automatic cognitive processes, by recruiting attentional resources when information is not clearly communicated. It was found that when someone miscommunicates in a way that may seem ambiguous or confounding, the individual pays more attention overall. However, this is only when information is communicated in a way that is salient or attention grabbing, but not necessarily when this mode of communication becomes predictable. In other words, and consistent with the rules of conversation, if information is continuously communicated in a form that is repetitive, an individual mostly processes this information automatically and reciprocally -- resulting in paying less attention to one’s conversation partner. In contrast, if there is an environmental cue to indicate why a miscommunication has occurred, the individual may begin to pay more attention. Therefore, miscommunication may in fact become beneficial when it prompts an individual to pay attention.
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