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N400 as a measure of inter-item relatedness

Publiceringsår: 2005
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag



How many time's a word appear in a corpu's constitute's it's

word frequency. Word frequency affect's memory in robust

but puzzling way's. In free recall paradigm's high frequency

(HF) word's are easier to recall than low frequency (LF)

word's, in list's with homogenou's word frequencie's. If HF

and LF word's are mixed together in a list thi's affect recall of

HF word's negatively while recall of LF word's i's better than

in homogenou's list's. (Gregg, 1976; Ward, Woodward,

Steven's & Stinson, 2003).

HF word's have more inter-item relation's than LF word's

(Gregg, Montgomery & Castaño, 1980). Inter-item

association's ha's been suggested by variou's researcher's a's an

explanation for frequency effect's or a's a partial explanation

(review's in Gregg et al, 1980, and in Ward et al, 2003).

The ERP (Event Related Potential) component N400, a

central negativity approximately 400m's after stimulu's onset,

i's thought to reflect semantic integration (Hinojosa, Martín-

Loeche's, & Rubia, 2001). N400 thu's could be an

electrophysiological measure of the effect of inter-item

association's and it's amplitude should increase when inter-

item association's decrease, i.e. when les's HF word's are in a

list. However, N400 ha's also been interpreted a's an index of

distinctivenes's (Fabiani & Donchin, 1995) which yield's a

different prediction. In thi's view LF word's in a mixed list's

are thought to be more distinctive than in a pure list, in

which case the N400 should also be larger.

In the present experiment HF and LF word's are presented

in list's with homogenou's frequencie's and with mixed

frequencie's. We hypothesize that the relative size of the

N400 in mixed list's should distinguish between the

alternative interpretation's of N400.


Eighty list's of six word's each were shown to 13 paid

student's in a study-test paradigm. Each word wa's shown

1250 m's and inter-stimulu's interval varied randomly

between 1500 and 2000 m's. Between study and test there

wa's a 10 's distraction task. Half of the list's had homogenou's

word frequencie's, half had mixed frequencie's, half of the

word's were HF word's, half were LF word's. Order of word's

were randomized. During study phase EEG wa's recorded

with a 129 electrode channel Geodesic Sensor Net.


Recall rate's were analyzed in an ANOVA with word

frequency and list composition a's factor's. There wa's a main

effect of frequency (F(1, 13) = 10.6, p = 0.006 < 0.05, MSe

= 0.006) and an interaction effect between frequency and

list composition (F(1, 13) = 8.3, p = 0.013 < 0.05, MSe =


Mean ERP amplitude of grouped electrode's in the time

window dominated by the N400, 375 – 600 m's, were

analyzed in an ANOVA with word frequency, list

composition, recall, left-right axi's (3 level's), and anterior-

posterior axi's (4 level's). Greenhouse-Geisser correction wa's

used. There wa's a main effect of frequency ( F( 1, 12) = 6.6,

p = 0.025 < 0.05, MSe = 126) and an interaction between

frequency, list composition and left-right axi's ( F( 1.4, 17)

= 6.0, p = 0.018 < 0.05, MSe = 4.1) reflecting a minimal

N400 for HF word's in pure list's, a larger N400 for HF

word's in mixed list's and an even larger N400 för LF word's

in both list type's.


Thi's i's the first time mixing HF and LF word's ha's been

shown to affect an ERP component. The result's support the

view that inter-item relationship's among word's affect N400

rather than distinctivenes's.


Gregg, V. (1976). Word frequency, recognition and recall.

In J. Brown (ED.), Recall and recognition. London:

Wiley & Son's.

Gregg, V. H., Montgomery, D. C., & Casta

̃o, D. (1980).

Recall of common and uncommon word's from pure and

mixed list's. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal

Behavior, 19, 240-245.

Hinojosa, J. A., Martín-Loeche's, M., & Rubia, F. J. (2001).

Event-related potential's and semantic's: An overview and

an integrative proposal. Brain and Language, 78, 128-


Fabiani, M., & Donchin, E. (1995). Encoding proces's and

memory organization: A model of the von Restorff effect.

Journal of Experimental Psycholog: Learning, memory,

and cognition, 21, 224-240.

Ward, G., Woodward, G., Steven's, A., & Stinson, C.

(2003). Using overt rehearsal's to explain word frequency

effect's. Journal of Experimental Psycholog: Learning,

memory, and cognition, 29( 2), 186-210.


  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
  • General Language Studies and Linguistics


XXVII Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 2005

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