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Poster A46, Thursday, August 16, 10:15 am – 12:00 pm, Room 2000AB

The modulation of the N400 effect: reference and dispositional affect

Veena D. Dwivedi1, Janahan Selvanayagam;1Brock University

This 2x2 ERP study had two goals: first, to investigate how sentences exhibiting lexical-pragmatic anomaly are processed with either definite or demonstrative determiners, and second, to investigate how this difference is modulated by affective state. To this end, 22 participants read sentences containing objects that were either congruent or incongruent with context. Sentences such as The connoisseur tasted the wine/#the roof on the tour, were tested, where the latter object type is known to elicit N400 effects vs. its control. In addition, we varied determiner type to include demonstrative that, as in, The connoisseur tasted that wine/#that roof on the tour. In the absence of previous context, using demonstrative that is pragmatically incongruent. We expected this additional violation to amplify the N400 effect (Hagoort, 2003). Next, affective state is known to influence cognitive processing (Loftus et al., 1987). Here we investigate whether this relation extended to linguistic processing. Regarding affect, we hypothesized that individuals with more positive traits would display a more global processing style (Chwilla et al., 2011). These individuals would therefore be more sensitive to violations in meaning that were derived from pragmatic context and/or experience in the world (also called ‘heuristics’). Results revealed a significant N400 effect at The connoisseur tasted #the roof on the tour vs. its control The connoisseur tasted the wine; where, amplitude differences did correlate with individuals displaying more positive traits. Meanwhile, N400 effects were attenuated for that wine/#that roof. Instead, this condition revealed a significant P200 effect, where amplitude differences were greater for less positive individuals. We discuss the correlation in terms of morphosyntactic features of that, which serve to direct readers’ attention.

Topic Area: Meaning: Discourse and Pragmatics