Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were recorded as subjects silently read a set of unrelated sentences. The ERP responses elicited by open-class words were sorted according word frequency and the ordinal position of the eliciting word within its sentence. We observed a strong inverse correlation between sentence position and the amplitude of the N400 component of the ERP. In addition, we found that less frequent words were associated with larger N400s than were more frequent words, but only if theeliciting words occurred early in their respective sentences. We take this interaction between sentence position and word frequency as evidence that frequency does not play a mandatory role in wordrecognition, but can besuperseded by the contextual constraint provided by a sentence.
Balota, D. A., &.Chumbley, J. I. (1984). Are lexical decisions a good measure of lexical access? The role of word frequency in the neglected decision stage.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,10, 340–357.
Balota, D. A., &.Chumbley, J. I. (1985). The locus of word-frequency effects in the pronunciation task: Lexical and/or production frequency?Journal of Memory & Language,24, 89–106.
Becker, C. A. (1976). Allocation of attention during visual word recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,2, 556–566.
Becker, C. A. (1979). Semantic context and word frequency effects in visual word recognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,5, 252–259.
Becker, C- A. (1980). Semantic context effects in visual word recognition: an analysis of semantic strategies.Memory & Cognition,8, 493–512.
Bentin, S., Mccarthy, G., &Wood, C. C. (1985). Event-related potentials associated with semantic priming.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,60, 343–355.
Besson, M., &Macar, F. (1987). An event-related potential analysis of incongruityin music and other non-linguistic contexts.Psychophysiology,24, 14–25.
Bloom, P. A., &Fischler, I. (1980). Completion norms for 329 sentence contexts.Memory & Cognition,8, 631–642.
Bradley, D. C, &Forster, K. I. (1987). A reader’s view of listening.Cognition,25, 72–103.
Cairns, H. S., &Foss, D.J. (1971). Falsification of the hypothesis that word frequency is a unified variable in sentence processing.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,10, 41–43.
Davis, H., Mast, T., Yoshie, N., &Zerlin, S. (1966). The slow response of the human cortex to auditory stimuli: Recovery process.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,21, 105–113.
Feldstein, P., Smith, M.E., & Halgren, E. (1987, June).Crossmodal repetition effects on the N4. Paper presented at the Fourth International Conference onCognitive Neuroscience, Dourdan, France.
Fischler, I., &Bloom, P. A. (1979). Automatic andattentional processes in the effects of sentence contexts on word recognition.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,18, 1–20.
Fodor, J. A. (1983).The modularity of mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Forster, K. I. (1981a). Frequencyblocking and lexical access: One mental lexicon or two?Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,20, 190–203.
Forster, K. I. (1981b). Priming and the effects of sentence and lexical contexts on naming time: Evidence for autonomous lexical processing.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,33A, 465–495.
Foss, D. J. (1969). Decision processes during sentence comprehension: Effects of lexical time difficulty and position upon decision times.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,8, 457–462.
Francis, W. N., &Kucera, H. (1982).Frequency analysis of English usage: Lexicon and grammar. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Gernsbacher, M. A. (1984). Resolving 20 years of inconsistent interactions between lexical familiarity and orthography, concreteness, and polysemy.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,113, 256–281.
Gordon, B. (1985). Subjective frequency and the lexical decision latency function: Implications for mechanisms of lexical access.Journal of Memory & Language,24, 631–645.
Grosjean, F. (1980). Spoken word recognition processes and the gating paradigm.Perception & Psychophysics,28, 267–283.
Grosjean, F., &Itzler, J. (1984). Can semantic constraint reduce the role of word frequency during spoken-word recognition?Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society,22, 180–182.
Harbin, T, J., Marsh, G. R., &Harvey, M. T. (1984). Differences in thelate components of the event-related potential due to age and to semantic and non-semantic tasks.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,59, 489–496.
Holcomb, P. J. (1985). Unimodal and multimodal models of lexical memory: An ERP analysis.Psychophysiology,22, 576. (Abstract)
Holcomb, P. J. (1988). Automatic and attentional processing: An event-related brain potential analysis of semantic processing.Brain & Language,35, 66–85.
Hudson, P. T. W., &Bergman, M. W. (1985). Lexical knowledge in word recognition: Word length and word frequency in naming and lexical decision tasks.Journal of Memory & Language,24, 46–58.
Inhoff, A. W. (1983). Attentional strategies during the reading of short stories. In K. Rayner (Ed.),Eye movements in reading: Perceptual and language processes (pp. 181–192). New York: AcademicPress.
Jasper, H. H. (1958). Theten-twenty electrode system of the International Federation.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,10, 371–375.
Johnson, R., Jr. (1988). The amplitude of the P300 component of the event-related potential: Review and synthesis. In P. K. Ackles. J.R. Jennings, & M. G. H. Coles (Eds.),Advances in psychophysiology (Vol. 3, pp. 69–138). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Just, M. A., &Carpenter, P. A. (1980). A theory- of reading: From eye fixations to comprehension.Psychological Review,87, 329–354.
Kleiman, G. M. (1980). Sentence frame context and lexical decisions: Sentence-acceptability and word-relatedness effects.Memory & Cognition,8, 336–344.
Kramer, A. F., &Donchin, E. (1987). Brain potentials as indices of orthographic and phonological interaction during word matching.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory,& Cognition,13, 76–86.
Kučera, H., &Francis, W. N. (1967).Computational analysis of present-day American English. Providence, RI: Brown University Press.
Kutas, M. (1985). ERP comparisons of the effects of single word and sentence contexts on word processing.Psychophysiology,22, 575–576.(Abstract)
Kutas, M. (1986). Event-related potentials (ERPs) elicited during rapid serial visual presentation of congruous and incongruous sentences.Electroencephalography&Clinical Neurophysiology, Suppl.40, 406–411.
Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1980a). Event-related brain potentials to semantically inappropriate and surprisingly large words.Biological Psychology,11, 99–116.
Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1980b). Reading between the lines: Event-related brain potentials during natural sentence processing.Brain & Language,11, 354–373.
Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1980c). Reading senseless sentences: Brain potentials reflect semantic incongruity.Science,207, 203–205.
Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1983). Event-related brain potentials to grammatical errors and semantic anomalies.Memory & Cognition,11, 539–550.
Kutas, M., &Hillyard, S. A. (1984). Brain potentials during reading reflect word expectancy and semantic association.Nature,307, 161–163.
Kutas, M., Ahillyard, S. A. (1988). An electrophysiological probe of incidental semantic association.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,1, 38–49.
Kutas, M., Lindamood, T., &Hillvard, S. A. (1984). Word expectancyand event-related brain potentials during sentence processing. In S. Komblum & J, Requin (Eds.),Preparatory states and processes (pp. 217–238). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Kutas, M., Neville, H. J., &Holcomb, P. J. (1987). A preliminary comparison of the N400 response to semantic anomalies during reading, listening, and signing.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology, Suppl. 39, 325–330.
Kutas, M., &Van Petten, C. (1988). Event-related brain potential studies of language. In P. K. Ackles, J. R. Jennings, & M. G. H. Coles (Eds.),Advances in psychophysiology (Vol. 3, pp. 139–187). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.
Kutas, M., Van Petten, C. &Besson, M. (1988). Event-related potential asymmetries during the readingof sentences.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,69, 218–233.
Mangun, G.R., &Hillyard, S. A. (1987). The spatial allocation of visual attention as addressed by event-relatedbrain potentials.Human Factors,29, 195–212.
Marslen-Wilson, W.D. (1987).Functional parallelismin spoken word-re cognition.Cognition,25.
Marslen-Wilson, W.,&Tyler, L. K. (1980). The temporal structure of spokenlanguageunderstanding.Cognition,8, 1–71.
McCallum, W. C, Farmer, S. F., &Pocock, P. K. (1984). The effects of physical and semantic incongruities on auditory event-related potentials.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,59, 477–488.
Mcclelland, J. L., &Elman, J. L. (1986). TheTRACE model of speech perception.Cognitive Psychology,18, 3–86.
Morton, J. (1964). The effects of contexton thevisual duration threshold for words.British Journal of Psychology,55, 165–180.
Morton, J. (1969). The interaction of information in word recognition.Psychological Review,76, 165–178.
Naatanen, R., &Picton, T. (1987). The Nl wave of the human electric and magnetic response to sound: A review and an analysis of the component structure.Psychophysiology,24, 375–425.
Neville, H. J., Kutas, M., Chesney, G., &Schmidt, A. (1986). Event-related brain potentials during the initial encoding and subsequent recognition memory of congruous and incongruous words.Journal of Memory & Language,25, 75–92.
Neville, H. J., &Lawson, D. (1987). Attentionto central and peripheral visual space in a movement detection task: An event-related potentialandbehavioralstudy: I. Normal hearing adults.Brain Research,405, 253–267.
Norris, D. (1986). Word recognition: Context effects without priming.Cognition,22, 93–136.
Nunez, P.L. (1981).Electric fields of the brain: The neurophvsics of EEG. New York: Oxford University Press.
Polich, J., &Lawson, D. (1985). Event-related potential paradigms usingtinelectrodes.American Journal of EEG Technology,25, 187–192.
Rubinstein, H., Garfield, L., &Millikan, J.A. (1970). Homographic entries in the internal lexicon.Journal of Verbal Learning &Verbal Behavior,9, 487–494.
Rugg, M. D. (1985). The effects of semantic priming and word repetition on event-related potentials.Psychophysiology,22, 642–647.
Rugg, M. D., Milner, A. D., &Lines, C. R. (1985). Visual evoked potentials to lateralised stimuli in two cases of callosal agenesis.Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry,48, 367–373.
Sanocki, T., Goldman, K., Waltz, J., Cook, C, Epstein, W., &Oden, G. (1985).Interaction of stimulus and contextual information during reading: Identifying words within sentences.Memory A Cognition,13, 145–157.
Scarborough, D. L., Cohtese,C, &Scarborough, H. S. (1977). Frequency and repetition effects inlexical memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: HumanPerception & Performance,3, 1–17.
Schmidt, A. L., Arthur, D. L., Kutas, M., George, J., &Flynn, E. (1989). Neuromagnetic responses evoked during reading meaningful and meaningless sentences.Psychophysiology,26, S6.
Schuberth, R. E., &Eimas, P. D. (1977). Effects of context on the classification of words and nonwords.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,3, 27–36.
Schuberth, R. E., Spoehr, K. T., &Lane, D. M. (1981). Effects of stimulus and contextual information on the lexical decision process.Memory & Cognition,9, 68–77.
Smith, M. E., &Halgren, E. (1987), Event-related potentials during lexical decision: Effects of repetition, word frequency, pronounceability, and concreteness.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology, Suppl. 40, 417–421.
Smith, M.E., Stapleton, J. M., &Halgren, E. (1986). Human medial temporal lobe potentials evoked in memory and language tasks.Electroencephalography &. Clinical Neurophysiology,63, 145–149.
Solomon, R. L., Ahowes, D. H. (1951). Word frequency, personal values andvisual durationthresholds.Psychological Review,58, 256–270.
Stanovich, K. E., &West, R. F. (1983). The effect of sentence processing on ongoing word recognition: Tests of a two process theory.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance,7, 658–672.
Stanovich, K.E., &West, R. F. (1983). On priming by a sentence context.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,112, 1–36.
Taylor, W. L. (1953). “Cloze” procedure: A new tool for measuring readability.Journalism Quarterly,30, 415–437.
Tulving, E., &Gold, C. (1963). Stimulus information and contextual information as determinants of tachistoscopic recognition of words.Journal of Experimental Psychology,66, 319–327.
Tyler, L. K. (1985). The structure of the initial cohort: Evidence from gating.Perception & Psychophysics,36, 417–427.
Underwood, G., &Baruh, K. (1982). Wordshape, orthographic regularity, and contextual interactions in a reading task.Cognition,12, 197–209.
Van Petten, C, &Kutas, M. (1987). Ambiguous words in context: An event-related potential analysis of the time course of meaning course of meaning activation.Journal of Memory & Language,26, 188–208.
Van Petten, C., & Kutas, M. (1989).Influences of semantic and syntactic context on open and closed class words. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Whaley, C. P. (1978). Word-nonword classification time.Journal of Verbal learning & Verbal Behavior,17, 143–154.
Woods, D. L., Hillyard, S. A., Courchesne, E., &Galambos, R. (1980a). Electrophysiological signs of split-second decision making.Science,207, 655–657.
Woods, D. L., Hillyard, S. A., Courchesne, E., &Galambos, R. (1980b). Recovery cycles of event-related potentials in multiple detection tasks.Electroencephalography & Clinical Neurophysiology,50, 335–347.
A brief report of this study was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Cognitive Neuroscience, Dourdan, France, in June 1987. The work was supported by NSF Grant BNS83-09243 and NICHD Grant HD 22614. C. Van Petten was supported by an NSF Graduate Fellowship. M. Kutas is supported by NTH Research Career Development Award MH 00322.
About this article
Cite this article
Van Petten, C., Kutas, M. Interactions between sentence context and word frequencyinevent-related brainpotentials. Memory & Cognition 18, 380–393 (1990). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03197127
- Word Recognition
- Lexical Decision
- Word Frequency
- N400 Amplitude
- Sentence Context