Orthographic and associative neighborhood density effects: What is shared, what is different?

Authors

  • Oliver Müller,

    1. Instituto de Tecnologías Biomédicas, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain
    2. Program of Psychology, Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia
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  • Jon Andoni Duñabeitia,

    1. Instituto de Tecnologías Biomédicas, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain
    2. Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language, BCBL, Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain
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  • Manuel Carreiras

    1. Instituto de Tecnologías Biomédicas, University of La Laguna, La Laguna, Spain
    2. Basque Center on Cognition Brain and Language, BCBL, Donostia-San Sebastián, Spain
    3. Facultad de Filología Vasca, Universidad del País Vasco (UPV-EHU), Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain
    4. IKERBASQUE, Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain
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  • Please note that the first two authors contributed equally to the research reported in this article. The research reported in this article has been partially supported by grants MTKD-CT-2005-28714 from the European Commission, grants SEJ2006-09238/PSIC and CONSOLIDER-INGENIO 2010 CSD2008-00048 from the Spanish Government, and grant BFI05.310 from the Basque Government.

Address reprint requests to: Oliver Müller, Program of Psychology, Faculty of Medicine, Universidad del Rosario, Cra. 24 No. 63C-69, Bogotá D.C., Colombia. E-mail: oliver.muller@urosario.edu.co

Abstract

Words with many orthographic neighbors elicit a larger N400 than words with few orthographic neighbors. This has been interpreted as stronger overall semantic activation due to orthographic neighbors activating their semantic representations. To investigate this claim, we manipulated the number of associates of words (NoA), a variable directly affecting overall semantic activation, and compared this to the ERP effect of the number of orthographic neighbors (N) in a lexical decision task. Words with high NoA and with high N produced a very similar increase of the N400. In addition, a higher N increased the amplitude of the Late Positive Complex. The common N400 effect suggests that N affects semantic activation, like NoA does. The late positive effect specific to N could occur because words with few orthographic neighbors initially elicit little activity in the orthographic system, thereby resembling nonwords, which leads to distinct processing.

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