[PS-3.66] Stripy ladybirds and stripy journeys: Does negation differentially affect the processing of sentences with a world-knowledge or semantic violation?

Dudschig, C. , Maienborn, C. & Kaup, B.

University of Tübingen

The N400 complex typically indicates processing difficulties that arise during comprehension. Up to date it is still debated to what degree the N400 reflects lexical associations as opposed to higher-level sentence integration processes. In the current study we used affirmative and negated sentences allowing for a manipulation of the sentence`s truth-value without changing the critical content words in the sentence (i.e. keeping the lexical associations identical). Specifically, we investigated true sentences ('Zebras are stripy'), sentences with a world-knowledge violation ('Ladybirds are stripy') and sentences with a semantic violation ('Journeys are stripy'), as well as their negated counterparts. Whereas a true sentence becomes false when negated ('Zebras are not stripy'), a sentence with a world knowledge violation becomes true ('Ladybirds are not stripy'). Interestingly, a sentence with a semantic violation remains violated when negated ('Songs are not stripy'). This material thus allows distinguishing between integration difficulties arising from lexical semantic content content and integration difficulties arising from different processes at the sentential level. First results suggest that the influence of lexical associations overweighs sentence integration processes in the N400 complex, and thus basically replicates the results of an earlier study by Fischler et al. (1983; but see Nieuwland & Kuperberg, 2008).