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ERIC Number: EJ1173715
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2018-Mar
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Individual Differences in Verbal Working Memory Underlie a Tradeoff between Semantic and Structural Processing Difficulty during Language Comprehension: An ERP Investigation
Kim, Albert E.; Oines, Leif; Miyake, Akira
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v44 n3 p406-420 Mar 2018
This study investigated the processes reflected in the widely observed N400 and P600 event-related potential (ERP) effects and tested the hypothesis that the N400 and P600 effects are functionally linked in a tradeoff relationship, constrained in part by individual differences in cognitive ability. Sixty participants read sentences, and ERP effects of semantic anomaly, relative to plausible words, were calculated for each participant. Results suggested qualitatively different ERP patterns across participants: Some individuals generated N400-dominated effects, whereas others generated P600-dominated effects, for the same stimuli. To specify the sources of individual differences in brain responses, we also derived aggregate scores for verbal working memory (WM), nonverbal WM, and language experience/knowledge, based on 6 behavioral measures administered to each participant. Multiple regression analysis pitting these 3 constructs against each other showed that a larger verbal WM capacity was significantly associated with larger P600 and smaller N400 effect amplitudes across individuals, whereas the other constructs did not predict the ERP effects. The results suggest that N400 and P600 brain responses, which may be attributable to semantic integration difficulty and structural processing, respectively, vie for expression when comprehenders encounter semantically unexpected words and that which option wins out is constrained in part by each comprehender's verbal WM capacity.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF); National Institutes of Health (DHHS)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Colorado (Boulder)
Grant or Contract Numbers: BCS1431223; R03HD07109402