Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Summer 2023

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair

Ralf Greenwald

Second Committee Member

Mary Radeke

Third Committee Member

Stephen Schepman


Semantic memory refers to a portion of long-term memory that processes meaning, understanding, and conceptual facts about the world. Research shows that information processing benefits from a priming effect for access to semantic memory. For example, seeing a certain word or gesture, can form a prediction of what will follow. Encountering information that is incongruent with this priming effect elicits the N400 brainwave. The N400 can be used to identify incongruence in sentences, gestures, and even facial expressions. However, there is emerging evidence that context given to even incongruent information has the effect of lessening the strength of the N400. This study examined the effect of context and condition type on the N400. Thirteen participants were recruited for the purposes of this study. Stories were presented in their original form as well as inter-spliced with sentences from other stories to ascertain if changing the context of the story would elicit different results than previous studies (Nieuwland & VanBerkum, 2006; Boudewyn et al., 2019). Stories presented in their original form had similar effects to previous studies, eliciting an N400 effect in the Inanimate condition in Sentences 1 & 2 and no N400 effect in the Inanimate condition in Sentences 3 & 4 and in any sentence in the Animate Condition. Inter-splicing had an unusual effect. The amplitude during inter-spliced Inanimate condition did not change over the course of the story, in contradiction to iv the effect that was seen in the original story. The inter-spliced Animate condition showed more negativity in amplitude in Sentences 3 & 4 in comparison to Sentences 1 & 2. This study showed that sentence presentation does appear to matter for discourse, but it seems to imply that it has a reversal effect on stories containing Animate subjects.

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Psychology Commons