Anomalies at the borderline of awareness: an ERP study

Sanford, A. J., Leuthold, H., Bohan, J. and Sanford, A. J. S. (2011) Anomalies at the borderline of awareness: an ERP study. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 23(3), pp. 514-523. (doi: 10.1162/jocn.2009.21370)

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Behaviourally, some semantic anomalies, such as those used to demonstrate N400 effects in event-related brain potentials (ERPs), are easy to detect. However some, like "after an air crash, where should the survivors be buried?" are difficult. The difference has to do with the extent to which the anomalous word fits the general context. We asked whether anomalies that are missed elicit an ERP that could be taken as indicating unconscious recognition, and whether both types elicit an N400 effect when they are detected. We found that difficult anomalies having a good fit to general context did not produce an N400 effect, while control easy to detect anomalies did. For difficult anomalies, there was no evidence for unconscious detection occurring. The results support a qualitative distinction in the way the two types of anomalies are processed, and the idea that semantic information is simply not utilised (shallow processing) when difficult anomalies are missed.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Bohan, Dr Jason and Leuthold, Prof Hartmut and Sanford, Professor Anthony
Authors: Sanford, A. J., Leuthold, H., Bohan, J., and Sanford, A. J. S.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Psychology
Journal Name:Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Publisher:Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ISSN (Online):1530-8898
Published Online:09 December 2010

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