Delogu, Francesca; Brouwer, Harm; Crocker, Matthew W.

The influence of lexical priming versus event knowledge on the N400 and the P600

23rd AMLaP Conference, Lancaster, UK, 2017.

In online language comprehension, the N400 component of the Event-Related Potentials (ERP) signal is inversely proportional to semantic expectancy (Kutas & Federmeier, 2011). Among other factors, a word’s expectancy is influenced by both lexical-level (Bentin et al., 1985) as well as event-level (Metusalem et al., 2012) priming: the N400 amplitude is reduced if the eliciting word is semantically related to prior words in the context and/or when it is consistent with the event being described. Perhaps the most extreme instance of such facilitatory effects arises in the processing of reversal anomalies (see Brouwer et al., 2012 for review). Here, a word that renders a sentence semantically anomalous, such as “eat” in “For breakfast the eggs would eat”, produces no difference in N400 amplitude relative to a non-anomalous control “For breakfast the boys would eat” (Kuperberg et al., 2007). Indeed, the absence of an N400-effect for contrasts such as these suggest that the critical word eat is equally facilitated in both the target and the control condition. An open question, however, is whether these effects are predominantly driven by lexical-level or event-level priming. To address this question, we conducted an ERP experiment in which we explicitly deactivate the event under discussion in order to mitigate event-level priming effects on the critical word.