Individual differences in the effects of plausibility on incremental sentential integration: An ERP study

Hiroko Nakano, Tamara Swaab

Research output: Other contribution


The present study assessed the role of working memory capacity in the integration of incremental thematic information. Participants with High and Low working memory capacity listened to naturally produced sentences in a simple active structure, in which the semantic/pragmatic plausibility of the sentences was manipulated as follows: HIGH: "The kitten is drinking the milk"; MEDIUM: "The pianist is drinking the milk"; LOW: "The necklace is drinking the milk" Thus, the degree of plausibility 206 Tuesday, April 20, 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM varied between subject noun phrases and verbs; and subject noun phrases, verbs, and object noun phrases. ERPs were time-locked to the onset of the subject nouns, the verbs, and the object nouns. For the Low Span but not for the High Span group a reduction of the N400 was found to the verbs in the HIGH relative to the LOW condition. In contrast, the High Span but not the Low Span group showed a reduction of the N400 to the object noun in the HIGH relative to the MEDIUM condition. This indicates that individuals with low working memory capacity integrate sentential thematic information as a function of meaning relations between words in the sentence, much like semantic priming in a list of words. The High span subjects on the other hand, integrate semantic information into a thematic structure at a later point in time.

Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - May 1 2004


  • Psychology

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