Häuser, Katja; Kray, Jutta

Effects of prediction error on episodic memory retrieval: evidence from sentence reading and word recognition

Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, Taylor & Francis, pp. 1-17, 2021.

Prediction facilitates word processing in the moment, but the longer-term consequences of prediction remain unclear. We investigated whether prediction error during language encoding enhances memory for words later on. German-speaking participants read sentences in which the gender marking of the pre-nominal article was consistent or inconsistent with the predictable noun. During subsequent word recognition, we probed participants’ recognition memory for predictable and unpredictable nouns. Our results indicate that individuals who demonstrated early prediction error during sentence reading, showed enhanced recognition memory for nouns overall. Results from an exploratory step-wise regression showed that prenominal prediction error and general reading speed were the best proxies for recognition memory. Hence, prediction error may facilitate recognition by furnishing memory traces built during initial reading of the sentences. Results are discussed in the light of hypotheses positing that predictable words show a memory disadvantage because they are processed less thoroughly.