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Volition and Semantic Access

Goal: Goal: to examine mechanisms of volition and how they may influence semantic access. Can our expectations influence how we process the meaning of objects (e.g., words) in our environment?

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Matthew J. Kmiecik
added 2 research items
This poster presents preliminary data from this study that was presented at the Cognitive Neuroscience Annual Meeting 2020 (virtual conference).
Mechanistic theories of the N400 event-related potential—a neural correlate indexing semantic processing in the brain—implicate the roles of prediction, priming, and bottom-up sensory integration in language comprehension; however, mechanisms explaining volitional aspects of semantic meaning construction are not fully understood. To explore this, participants were visually shown sentences, with words presented one at a time, and evaluated whether the final words of sentences formed sensible (SC) or unconnected completions (UCs). Participant expectancies were modulated using colored boxes that surrounded the words of each sentence cueing the participants to either expect a SC (green) or UC (orange). A neutral cue (purple) did not indicate the completion type and served as a baseline condition. Expectancies were factorially crossed with completion type forming valid, invalid, and neutral conditions. Trial presentations were weighted such that sentences were validly, invalidly, and neutrally cued 60/20/20% of the time, respectively, incentivizing participants to utilize the colored cues. Cues successfully modulated participant expectations such that participants were more accurate when evaluating validly than invalidly cued sentences and selectively faster when solving validly cued sentences that were semantically congruent. The N400, as measured following the presentation of the final word, was modulated by completion type such that UCs elicited more negative deflections than SCs. However, expectations generated via colored cues did not modulate N400 mean amplitudes. These results suggest that volitionally generated expectancies do not dramatically affect neural signatures of semantic access, but ultimately lead to additional processing responsible for resolving discrepancies between semantic congruency and expectancy.
Matthew J. Kmiecik
added a project goal
Goal: to examine mechanisms of volition and how they may influence semantic access. Can our expectations influence how we process the meaning of objects (e.g., words) in our environment?