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Poster B3, Thursday, August 16, 3:05 – 4:50 pm, Room 2000AB

Interference interacts with prediction during language comprehension: Implications for predictive coding

Pia Schoknecht1, Dietmar Roehm1, Ina Bornkessel-Schlesewsky2;1University of Salzburg, 2University of South Australia

Effects of similarity-based interference from cue overlap during sentence comprehension have been found in numerous behavioral studies (Jäger et al. 2017, for a review), but the underlying neurobiology is less well understood (but see Martin et al. 2012; Lee and Garnsey 2015). We present an ERP study on memory retrieval, interference and prediction during language processing. Thirty-two young, healthy, right-handed, native speakers of German read sentence pairs word-by-word. A context sentence introduced two noun phrases (NPs). A target sentence referred back to one of the NPs; the article was our critical word. Interference was manipulated via a gender match/mismatch between the NPs in the context. In the high interference condition (1), the article is ambiguous; in the low interference conditions (2, 3), there is only one compatible NP in the context. Recency was manipulated via the distance of the distractor NP to the retrieval site (article). Note that recency was manipulated for high and low interference conditions, but is only presented for low interference conditions here, as it does not become relevant until the noun position in the high interference case. Prediction was measured via offline cloze probability (CP) of the critical article (range: 0 – 1) and following noun (range: 0 – 1). Examples (German originals, literal English translations, critical word in asterisks): (1) High interference context: Im Schuppen steht ein Grill und im Garten ein Rasenmäher. In.the shed stands a grill-MASC and in.the garden a lawnmower-MASC. (2) Low interference / short distractor distance context: Im Schuppen steht ein Grill und im Garten ein Motorrad. In.the shed stands a grill-MASC and in.the garden a motorbike-NEUTR. (3) Low interference / long distractor distance context: Im Garten steht ein Motorrad und im Schuppen ein Grill. In.the garden stands a motorbike-NEUTR and in.the shed stands a grill-MASC. (4) Target: Peter putzt *den* Grill jeden zweiten Sonntag. Peter cleans the-MASC grill each second sunday. Single trial brain responses were analyzed in a standard N400 time window at the article using linear mixed models with sagittality, laterality, interference (high, low/short distance, low/long distance) and CPs of the article and following noun as predictors. Random intercepts by subjects and items were included. Results showed an interaction of interference, article CP and noun CP. Effects of interference only emerged when both article CP and noun CP were low and manifested themselves as increased N400 effects for the high interference and low interference / short distance conditions in comparison to the low interference / long distance condition. This suggests that prediction outweighs the effects of interference. It also indicates that low interference – i.e. absence of feature overlap and of a recent distractor – reduces uncertainty in the reactivation of potential candidates for the upcoming noun. Neurophysiologically, this resembles a silencing of prediction errors (i.e. a reduced N400). We conclude that interference may play a crucial role in a hierachically organised, cortical predictive coding architecture for language in that it drives inferences drawn about the input when predictability is low.

Topic Area: Control, Selection, and Executive Processes