Dissociable effects of prediction and integration during language comprehension: Evidence from a largescale study using brain potentials

Mante S. Nieuwland, Dale J. Barr, Federica Bartolozzi, Simon Busch-Moreno, Emily Darley, David I. Donaldson, Heather J. Ferguson, Xiao Fu, Evelien Heyselaar, Falk Huettig, E. Matthew Husband, Aine Ito, Nina Kazanina, Vita Kogan, Zdenko Kohút, Eugenia Kulakova, Diane Mézière, Stephen Politzer-Ahles, Guillaume Rousselet, Shirley Ann RueschemeyerKatrien Segaert, Jyrki Tuomainen, Sarah Von Grebmer Zu Wolfsthurn

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

114 Citations (Scopus)


Composing sentence meaning is easier for predictable words than for unpredictable words. Are predictable words genuinely predicted, or simply more plausible and therefore easier to integrate with sentence context? We addressed this persistent and fundamental question using data from a recent, large-scale (n = 334) replication study, by investigating the effects of word predictability and sentence plausibility on the N400, the brain's electrophysiological index of semantic processing. A spatio-temporally fine-grained mixed-effect multiple regression analysis revealed overlapping effects of predictability and plausibility on the N400, albeit with distinct spatio-temporal profiles. Our results challenge the viewthat the predictability-dependent N400 reflects the effects of either prediction or integration, and suggest that semantic facilitation of predictable words arises froma cascade of processes that activate and integrate word meaning with context into a sentence-level meaning. This article is part of the theme issue 'Towards mechanistic models of meaning composition'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20180522
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1791
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2020


  • N400
  • Plausibility
  • Predictability
  • Semantic similarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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