Spectrum Analysis of Cortical Activity During Verbal Planning: Physical Evidence for the Formation of Social Interaction Routines


Michael J. Beatty; e-mail: beatty@umsl.edu


A substantial body of scholarship focused on the processes involved in message planning has accumulated in the communication literature. One of the central tenets of memory models upon which most of the message planning models are based is that dynamic memory systems organize and reorganize knowledge structures to maximize information processing efficiency. Accordingly, efficiency can be achieved by merely retrieving and enacting plans that have achieved goals previously under similar conditions. Plan failure, however, requires alteration or even production of an original plan. Although researchers have relied exclusively on output (e.g., response latency, memory tests) to draw inferences about planning processes, it is possible to observe cognitive processes more directly by measuring cortical responses. In the present study, electrical activity was monitored in the region of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex during verbal planning. Results indicated that (a) electrical activity while planning under conditions that permitted enactment of verbal plans that required no modification was significantly lower than during planning in the initial trial but, (b) electrical activity while planning under conditions in which previous efforts failed was significantly higher than during planning in the initial trial. These results provide physical evidence for the hypothetical cognitive processes proposed in the cognitivist models of routine formation.