Generalized Event Knowledge Activation During Online Language Comprehension


Online language comprehension is guided by knowledge regarding real-world events. However, it remains unclear whether activation of event knowledge during language comprehension is constrained by the linguistic context or is generalized, including a wide variety of information associated with the event even if that information has not been mentioned previously and does not satisfy constraints imposed by the local linguistic context. The present study addresses this issue by analyzing event-related brain potentials recorded as participants read brief scenarios describing typical real-world events. The amplitude of the N400 elicited by a contextually anomalous word was reduced if that word was related to the event described. This result suggests that online language comprehension involves construction of rich event representations that include information beyond that which is relevant to the processing of the current linguistic input.

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