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Title: Getting ahead of yourself: Parafoveal word expectancy modulates the N400 during sentence reading

An important question in the reading literature regards the nature of the semantic information readers can extract from the parafovea (i.e., the next word in a sentence). Recent eye-tracking findings have found a semantic parafoveal preview benefit under many circumstances, and findings from event-related brain potentials (ERPs) also suggest that readers can at least detect semantic anomalies parafoveally. We use ERPs to ask whether fine-grained aspects of semantic expectancy can affect the N400 elicited by a word appearing in the parafovea. In an RSVP-with-flankers paradigm, sentences were presented word by word, flanked 2° bilaterally by the previous and upcoming words. Stimuli consisted of high constraint sentences that were identical up to the target word, which could be expected, unexpected but plausible, or anomalous, as well as low constraint sentences that were always completed with the most expected ending. Findings revealed an N400 effect to the target word when it appeared in the parafovea, which was graded with respect to the target’s expectancy and congruency within the sentence context. Moreover, when targets appeared at central fixation, this graded congruency effect was mitigated, suggesting that the semantic information gleaned from parafoveal vision functionally changes the semantic processing of those words when foveated.
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  1. Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 1530-7026; PII: 492
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 17; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 1530-7026
Research Org:
Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States
60 APPLIED LIFE SCIENCES; ERPs; lexical access; semantics; parafoveal processing
OSTI Identifier: