The N400 reveals how personal semantics is processed: Insights into the nature and organization of self-knowledge

Jason C. Coronel, Kara D. Federmeier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

There is growing recognition that some important forms of long-term memory are difficult to classify into one of the well-studied memory subtypes. One example is personal semantics. Like the episodes that are stored as part of one's autobiography, personal semantics is linked to an individual, yet, like general semantic memory, it is detached from a specific encoding context. Access to general semantics elicits an electrophysiological response known as the N400, which has been characterized across three decades of research; surprisingly, this response has not been fully examined in the context of personal semantics. In this study, we assessed responses to congruent and incongruent statements about people's own, personal preferences. We found that access to personal preferences elicited N400 responses, with congruency effects that were similar in latency and distribution to those for general semantic statements elicited from the same participants. These results suggest that the processing of personal and general semantics share important functional and neurobiological features.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)36-43
Number of pages8
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume84
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Keywords

  • N400
  • Personal semantics
  • Self-knowledge
  • Semantic memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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