Individual Differences in Reading Speed are Linked to Variability in the Processing of Lexical and Contextual Information: Evidence from Single-trial Event-related Brain Potentials

Brennan Payne, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In the current paper, we examined the effects of lexical (e.g. word frequency, orthographic neighborhood density) and contextual (e.g. word predictability in the form of cloze probability) features on single-trial event-related brain potentials in a self-paced reading paradigm. Critically, we examined whether individual differences in reading speed modulated single-trial effects on the N400, an ERP component linked to semantic memory access. Consistent with past work, we found that word frequency effects on the N400 were attenuated with increasing predictability. However, effects of orthographic neighborhood density were robust across all levels of predictability. Importantly, individual differences in reading speed moderated the influence of both frequency and predictability (but not orthographic neighborhood density) on the N400, such that slower readers showed reduced effects compared to faster readers. These data show that different lexical factors influence word processing through dissociable mechanisms. Our findings support a dynamic semantic-memory access model of the N400, in which information at multiple levels (lexical, sentential, individual) simultaneously contributes to the unfolding neural dynamics of comprehension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)252-272
Number of pages21
JournalWord
Volume65
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2 2019

Fingerprint

brain
event
evidence
semantics
comprehension
Predictability
Speed Reading
Event-related Brain Potentials
Individual Differences
Contextual
paradigm
Neighborhood Density
Orthographic Neighborhood
Reader
Semantic Memory

Keywords

  • EEG
  • event-related brain potential
  • Lexical processing
  • reading
  • semantics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

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N2 - In the current paper, we examined the effects of lexical (e.g. word frequency, orthographic neighborhood density) and contextual (e.g. word predictability in the form of cloze probability) features on single-trial event-related brain potentials in a self-paced reading paradigm. Critically, we examined whether individual differences in reading speed modulated single-trial effects on the N400, an ERP component linked to semantic memory access. Consistent with past work, we found that word frequency effects on the N400 were attenuated with increasing predictability. However, effects of orthographic neighborhood density were robust across all levels of predictability. Importantly, individual differences in reading speed moderated the influence of both frequency and predictability (but not orthographic neighborhood density) on the N400, such that slower readers showed reduced effects compared to faster readers. These data show that different lexical factors influence word processing through dissociable mechanisms. Our findings support a dynamic semantic-memory access model of the N400, in which information at multiple levels (lexical, sentential, individual) simultaneously contributes to the unfolding neural dynamics of comprehension.

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