Höltje, Gerrit; Mecklinger, Axel

Benefits and costs of predictive processing: How sentential constraint and word expectedness affect memory formation

Brain Research, pp. 147942, 2022, ISSN 0006-8993.

This study investigated how the strength of schema support provided by strongly (SC) and weakly constraining (WC) sentences affects the encoding of expected and unexpected words, and how this is reflected in event-related potentials (ERPs). In a surprise recognition memory test, words studied on the previous day were presented together with new words and lures that were expected but not presented in the study phase. ERPs recorded in the study phase were compared for subsequently remembered and forgotten words. Better memory performance for expected over unexpected words was electrophysiologically supported by a parietal subsequent memory effect (SME) reflecting enhanced item-specific encoding of contextually expected words. SC sentences not only facilitated the semantic integration of sentence-ending words, as reflected in reduced N400 amplitudes, but also enabled the rapid successful encoding of these words into memory, which is evidenced by an SC > WC pattern in memory performance and correlations between pre- and post-stimulus SMEs for SC sentences. In contrast, words processed in WC sentence contexts necessitated sustained elaborative encoding processes as reflected in a late frontal slow wave SME. Expected but not presented words were associated with high rates of false positive memory decisions, indicating that these words remained in a state of high accessibility in memory even one day after the study phase. These mnemonic costs of predictive processing were more pronounced for expected words from SC sentences than from WC sentences and could reflect the lingering of strong semantic predictions which were associated with the pre-updating of sentence representations.