Tamara Swaab

Tamara Swaab

Position Title
Associate Professor of Psychology


In addition to her academic appointment in the Department of Psychology, Tamara Swaab is a core faculty member in the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain. She is also director of the Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Lab. In 2007, she was elected a fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and fellow of the Text and Discourse Neuroimaging Workshop, both in the Netherlands. She currently serves as section editor for Linguistics and Language Compass and has been a guest editor of Brain Research; Special Issue on Language in Context in 2007; and of Frontiers in Psychology from 2012-2013. In addition, Professor Swaab serves on the editorial boards of Brain Research and Frontiers in Neuroscience and is a member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society. 

Research Interests 
Language is a central part of our everyday life. Yet comprehending spoken and written language is extremely complex, being subserved by complex mental processes and supported by myriad areas in the brain. The main goal of Professor Swaab's research program is to study the cognitive and neural architectures of normal language comprehension. In this context, she has focused her research on a number of topics, including: 1) the processing of sentences and discourse, and 2) the representation of words and their meaning. In order to investigate these topics she has made use of behavioral methods, Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), and functional neuroimaging (fMRI). She has tested neurologically normal adults, neurological patients with brain damage who are impaired in normal language comprehension (aphasic patients), and patients with schziophrenia. The combination of these approaches can provide information on language comprehension processes as they unfold in real time, but also hold the obvious possibility of identifying areas in the brain that are crucial to normal language understanding.

Selected Publications

Tooley, K. M.,  Swaab, T. Y.,  Boudewyn, M. A.,  Zirnstein, M., & Traxler, M. J. (in press). Evidence for priming across intervening sentences during online sentence comprehension. Language and Cognitive Processes

Boudewyn, M. A., Zirnstein, M.,  Swaab, T. Y., &  Traxler, M. J. (in press). Priming prepositional phrase attachment: Evidence from eye-tracking and ERPs. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Brothers, T., Swaab, T.Y., & Traxler, M.J., (2017). Goals and strategies influence lexical prediction during sentence comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 93, 203-216.

Choi, W., Lowder, M.W., Ferreira, F., Swaab, T.Y. &  Henderson, J.M.  (2017). Effects of word predictability and preview lexicality on eye movements during reading:  A comparison between young and older adults. Psychology and Aging, 32(3), 232-242.

Boudewyn, M.A., Carter, C.S., Long, D.L., Traxler, M.J., Lesh, T.A., Mangun, G.R., & Swaab, T.Y. (2017). Language Context Processing Deficits in Schizophrenia: the Role of Attentional Engagement. Neuropsychologia, 96, 262-273.

Li X, Zhang Y, Xia J, Swaab TY. (2017). Internal mechanisms underlying anticipatory language processing: Evidence from event-related-potentials and neural oscillations. Neuropsychologia, 102, 70-81.

Brothers, T., Swaab, T.Y., and Traxler, M. (2015). Effect of prediction and contextual support on lexical processing: Prediction takes precedence. Cognition, 136, 135–149

Hoversten, L, Brothers, T., Swaab, T.Y., and Traxler, M. (2015). Language membership identification precedes semantic access: Suppression during bilingual word recognition. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(11), 2108-16.

Boudewyn, M.A., Long, D.L., Traxler, M.J., Lesh, T., Dave, S., Mangun, G.R., Carter, C.S. & Swaab, T.Y.  (2015). Sensitivity to Referential Ambiguity in Discourse: the Role of Attention, Working Memory and Verbal Ability. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 27(12), 2309-2323. 

Boudewyn, M.A., Long, D.L. & Swaab, T.Y. (2015). Graded Expectations: Predictive Processing and the Adjustment of Expectations during Spoken Language Comprehension. Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience, 15 (3), 607-62

Johns, C.,  Gordon, P. C.,  Long, D. L., &  Swaab, T. Y. (2013). Memory availability and referential access. Language and Cognitive Processes. DOI:10.1080/01690965.2012.733014 

Vergara-Martinez, M., Perea, M. , Gómez, P., &  Swaab, T. Y. (2013). ERP correlates of letter identity and letter position are modulated by lexical frequency. Brain and Language, 125, 11-27. 

Boudewyn, M. A., Long, D. L., &  Swaab, T.Y. (2013). Effects of working memory span on processing of lexical associations and congruence in spoken discourse. Frontiers in Psychology.

Boudewyn, M.A., Long, D.L., & Swaab, T.Y. (2012). Cognitive Control Influences the Use of Meaning Relations during Spoken Sentence Comprehension.  

Swaab, T.Y., Ledoux, K., Camblin, C.C., & Boudewyn, M.A. (2012) Language related ERP components. (Book Chapter). In: Luck, S. J. & Kappenman, E.S. (Eds.), pp 397-440. Oxford Handbook of Event-Related Potential Components. New York: Oxford University Press

Vergara-Martínez, M. & Swaab, T.Y. (2012). Orthographic neighborhood effects as a function of word frequency: An Event-Related Potential study. Psychophysiology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2012.01410.x

Boudewyn, M.A., Gordon, P.C., Long, D., Polse, L. & Swaab, T.Y. (2011). Does discourse congruence influence spoken language comprehension before lexical association? Evidence from event-related potentials. Language and Cognitive Processes. DOI:10.1080/01690965.2011.577980

Nakano, H., Saron, C., & Swaab, T.Y. (2010). Speech and Span: Working memory capacity impacts the use of animacy but not of world knowledge during spoken sentence comprehension. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22 (12), 2886–2898