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Modulation of working memory capacity on predictive processing during language comprehension

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Poster B22 in Poster Session B, Tuesday, October 24, 3:30 - 5:15 pm CEST, Espace Vieux-Port

Jinfeng Ding1,2, Yuping Zhang3, Panpan Liang1,2, Xiaoqing Li1,2; 1CAS Key Laboratory of Behavioral Science, Institute of Psychology, Beijing, China, 2Department of Psychology, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China, 3Military Psychology Teaching and Research Section, Officers college of PAP, Chengdu, China

Prediction is crucial for language comprehension and has been widely explored in this field. Ample evidence has shown facilitations of context-based prediction on language comprehension. However, many aspects of neurocognitive correlates underpinning predictive processing, especially anticipatory processing prior to the predicted information, remain elusive. For instance, the influential effect of working memory capacity on lexical prediction during online language comprehension needs to be investigated more precisely by taking a fine-grained contextual constraint into consideration. To investigate this issue with the electroencephalogram technique, participants with high or low working memory capacity were asked to read strong-, moderate- and weak-constraint sentences which resulted in high-, moderate- and low-predictability for the critical nouns. In the anticipatory processing stage, the strong-constraint (vs. weak-constraint) contexts preceding the predicted nouns elicited a larger positive deflection, which was only observed for the high-span group. Along with the smaller N400s for strong- vs. weak-predictable nouns for both groups, the moderately predictable nouns elicited smaller N400 than the weakly predictable nouns for the high-span group. The aforementioned ERP effects at both verbs and nouns significantly correlated with the noun’s predictability after contributions of other factors were regressed out. These findings suggest that predictive processing involves at least partially an effortful-meaning-computation mechanism, and high working memory capacity facilitates the activation and integration of predicted information during language comprehension.

Topic Areas: Meaning: Lexical Semantics, Reading

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