Brain Potentials as Indices of Orthographic and Phonological Interaction During Word Matching

Arthur F. Kramer, Emanuel Donchin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The interaction between orthographic and phonological codes in a same-different judgment task was studied by requiring subjects to decide if two visually presented words either looked alike or rhymed. Word pairs were selected from four different lists. Words rhymed and looked alike, rhymed but did not look alike, looked alike but did not rhyme, or neither looked alike nor rhymed. Reaction time and percent error increased whenever there was a conflict between the orthography and phonology of the words. The N200 component of the event-related brain potential (ERP) indicated that subjects were capable of detecting phonological differences between words within 260 ms from the presentation of a word pair. The amplitude of the N200s also varied with the degree of mismatch between words. N200s were largest when both the orthography and phonology mismatched, of intermediate amplitude when either orthography or phonology mismatched, and smallest when both orthography and phonology matched. P300 latency was consistent with reaction time, increasing whenever there was a conflict between the two codes. Taken together, behavioral measures and the ERP data suggest that the extraction of the orthographic and phonological aspects of words occurs early in the information processing sequence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-86
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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