Cultural background influences the liminal perception of Chinese characters: An ERP study

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18 Citations (Scopus)


The event-related brain potentials elicited by rapid visual presentation of Chinese characters and non-characters were studied for two groups of adult native Chinese speakers: one group of Putonghua speakers, who could read Simplified Chinese characters, and one group of Hong Kong Cantonese speakers, who could read Traditional Chinese characters. For Putonghua participants, but not Hong Kong Cantonese participants, liminally perceived characters were found to elicit significantly greater P300 amplitude than non-characters. Based on the context updating hypothesis, this result indicates that Putonghua participants discriminated stimuli according to their linguistic function (character versus non-character) more easily than Hong Kong Cantonese participants. Putonghua participants were also better able to discriminate characters based on their physical properties (high symmetry character versus low symmetry character). These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that Simplified character readers have greater visual discrimination skill than Traditional character readers. The results also provide the first evidence that cultural background shapes sensitivity in the liminal perception of Chinese characters, an important step toward a general theory of the cognitive processes involved in reading.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-426
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Chinese characters
  • Context updating
  • Cultural difference
  • ERP
  • Liminal perception
  • P300

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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