Anticipation during language processing: Investigating the use of sentence context during reading in young adults

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  • The N400 is an event-related potential (ERP) component that has been suggested to be associated with the processing of semantic information. Specifically, researchers have found that the N400 effect is prominent when words are incongruent in a given sentence context. Furthermore, the size of the N400 effect can be modulated by the degree to which the incongruent word is semantically related to the expected word (i.e., the word that would most plausibly complete the sentence). The present study investigates the use of sentence context in young healthy adult readers as they read sentences containing either expected or unexpected words. Unexpected words consisted of words that were considered within-category violations (i.e., were in the same semantic category as the expected word) or between-category violations (i.e., were in a different semantic category than the expected word). We did not find a significant difference in the N400 effect between the different sentence conditions. We did find a significant difference between the mean amplitude in the congruent and the incongruent between-category sentence conditions between 600-900 ms that may resemble a post-N400 positivity, also known as a frontal PNP. Implications for our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying online language processing and the use of context are discussed. 

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International