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Poster B94

Disentangling the semantic interference effect: an ERP picture word interference study in bilinguals

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Jacklyn Jardel1 (, Katherine J. Midgley1, Yazmin Medina1, Phillip J. Holcomb1; 1San Diego State University

Picture Word Interference (PWI) tasks are insightful for understanding the intricacies of lexical selection. Much like monolinguals in identity conditions, bilinguals in translation conditions (e.g., the word “DOG” with a picture of a dog to be named in Spanish - “perro”) typically show N400 priming (reduced N400s) and behavioral facilitation (faster RTs) for related compared to unrelated pairs. In semantically-related conditions (e.g., the word “CAT” with a picture of a dog) both monolinguals and bilinguals typically show N400 priming (reduced N400s) but behavioral inhibition (slower RTs). It is unclear why ERPs do not show the same inhibitory pattern as the behavioral data in the semantic condition, referred to as the Semantic Interference (SI) effect. This study observes the SI effect on the N400 in Spanish-English bilinguals using a novel scheme of grouping trials for analysis. Participants were shown English word primes that were either unrelated, semantically related, or direct translations of the target picture to-be-named in Spanish. While RT data and traditional ERP analysis replicated previous results our novel scheme revealed a different pattern for the semantic condition. Including only the trials that showed behavioral facilitation there was strong N400 priming (reduced N400s). Interestingly, when including only the trials that showed behavioral inhibition there was a reversal in the priming effect (increased N400s to the semantically related pictures). This polarity reversal indicates there is indeed an electrophysiological manifestation of semantic inhibition, but it can be obscured in typical ERP analyses that mix trials showing behavioral facilitation and inhibition.

Topic Area: LANGUAGE: Semantic


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April 13–16  |  2024