Publications

Displaying 1 - 100 of 863
  • Araújo, S., Reis, A., Faísca, L., & Petersson, K. M. (in press). Brain sensitivity to words and the “word recognition potential”. In D. Marques, & J. H. Toscano (Eds.), De las neurociencias a la neuropsicologia: el estúdio del cerebro humano. Barranquilla, Colombia: Corporación Universitaria Reformada.
  • Bluijs, S., Dera, J., & Peeters, D. (in press). Waarom digitale literatuur in het literatuuronderwijs thuishoort. Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde, 137(2), 150-163.
  • Holler, J., Drijvers, L., Rafiee, A., & Majid, A. (in press). Embodied space-pitch associations are shaped by language. Cognitive Science.
  • Aldosimani, M., Verdonschot, R. G., Iwamoto, Y., Nakazawa, M., Mallya, S. M., Kakimoto, N., Toyosawa, S., Kreiborg, S., & Murakami, S. (2021). Prognostic factors for lymph node metastasis from upper gingival carcinomas. Oral Radiology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s11282-021-00568-w.

    Abstract

    This study sought to identify tumor characteristics that associate with regional lymph node metastases in squamous cell carcinomas originating in the upper gingiva.
  • Arunkumar, M., Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Do illiterates have illusions? A conceptual (non)replication of Luria (1976). Journal of Cultural Cognitive Science, 5, 143-158. doi:10.1007/s41809-021-00080-x.

    Abstract

    Luria (1976) famously observed that people who never learnt to read and write do not perceive visual illusions. We conducted a conceptual replication of the Luria study of the effect of literacy on the processing of visual illusions. We designed two carefully controlled experiments with 161 participants with varying literacy levels ranging from complete illiterates to high literates in Chennai, India. Accuracy and reaction time in the identification of two types of visual shape and color illusions and the identification of appropriate control images were measured. Separate statistical analyses of Experiments 1 and 2 as well as pooled analyses of both experiments do not provide any support for the notion that literacy effects the perception of visual illusions. Our large sample, carefully controlled study strongly suggests that literacy does not meaningfully affect the identification of visual illusions and raises some questions about other reports about cultural effects on illusion perception.
  • Bakker-Marshall, I., Takashima, A., Fernandez, C. B., Janzen, G., McQueen, J. M., & Van Hell, J. G. (2021). Overlapping and distinct neural networks supporting novel word learning in bilinguals and monolinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 24(3), 524-536. doi:10.1017/S1366728920000589.

    Abstract

    This study investigated how bilingual experience alters neural mechanisms supporting novel word learning. We hypothesised that novel words elicit increased semantic activation in the larger bilingual lexicon, potentially stimulating stronger memory integration than in monolinguals. English monolinguals and Spanish–English bilinguals were trained on two sets of written Swahili–English word pairs, one set on each of two consecutive days, and performed a recognition task in the MRI-scanner. Lexical integration was measured through visual primed lexical decision. Surprisingly, no group difference emerged in explicit word memory, and priming occurred only in the monolingual group. This difference in lexical integration may indicate an increased need for slow neocortical interleaving of old and new information in the denser bilingual lexicon. The fMRI data were consistent with increased use of cognitive control networks in monolinguals and of articulatory motor processes in bilinguals, providing further evidence for experience-induced neural changes: monolinguals and bilinguals reached largely comparable behavioural performance levels in novel word learning, but did so by recruiting partially overlapping but non-identical neural systems to acquire novel words.
  • Coopmans, C. W., De Hoop, H., Kaushik, K., Hagoort, P., & Martin, A. E. (2021). Hierarchy in language interpretation: Evidence from behavioural experiments and computational modelling. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1980595.

    Abstract

    It has long been recognised that phrases and sentences are organised hierarchically, but many computational models of language treat them as sequences of words without computing constituent structure. Against this background, we conducted two experiments which showed that participants interpret ambiguous noun phrases, such as second blue ball, in terms of their abstract hierarchical structure rather than their linear surface order. When a neural network model was tested on this task, it could simulate such “hierarchical” behaviour. However, when we changed the training data such that they were not entirely unambiguous anymore, the model stopped generalising in a human-like way. It did not systematically generalise to novel items, and when it was trained on ambiguous trials, it strongly favoured the linear interpretation. We argue that these models should be endowed with a bias to make generalisations over hierarchical structure in order to be cognitively adequate models of human language.
  • Eekhof, L. S., Kuijpers, M. M., Faber, M., Gao, X., Mak, M., Van den Hoven, E., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Lost in a story, detached from the words. Discourse Processes, 58(7), 595-616. doi:10.1080/0163853X.2020.1857619.

    Abstract

    This article explores the relationship between low- and high-level aspects of reading by studying the interplay between word processing, as measured with eye tracking, and narrative absorption and liking, as measured with questionnaires. Specifically, we focused on how individual differences in sensitivity to lexical word characteristics—measured as the effect of these characteristics on gaze duration—were related to narrative absorption and liking. By reanalyzing a large data set consisting of three previous eye-tracking experiments in which subjects (N = 171) read literary short stories, we replicated the well-established finding that word length, lemma frequency, position in sentence, age of acquisition, and orthographic neighborhood size of words influenced gaze duration. More importantly, we found that individual differences in the degree of sensitivity to three of these word characteristics, i.e., word length, lemma frequency, and age of acquisition, were negatively related to print exposure and to a lesser degree to narrative absorption and liking. Even though the underlying mechanisms of this relationship are still unclear, we believe the current findings underline the need to map out the interplay between, on the one hand, the technical and, on the other hand, the subjective processes of reading by studying reading behavior in more natural settings.

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  • Eekhof, L. S., Van Krieken, K., Sanders, J., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Reading minds, reading stories: Social-cognitive abilities affect the linguistic processing of narrative viewpoint. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 698986. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.698986.

    Abstract

    Although various studies have shown that narrative reading draws on social-cognitive abilities, not much is known about the precise aspects of narrative processing that engage these abilities. We hypothesized that the linguistic processing of narrative viewpoint—expressed by elements that provide access to the inner world of characters—might play an important role in engaging social-cognitive abilities. Using eye tracking, we studied the effect of lexical markers of perceptual, cognitive, and emotional viewpoint on eye movements during reading of a 5,000-word narrative. Next, we investigated how this relationship was modulated by individual differences in social-cognitive abilities. Our results show diverging patterns of eye movements for perceptual viewpoint markers on the one hand, and cognitive and emotional viewpoint markers on the other. Whereas the former are processed relatively fast compared to non-viewpoint markers, the latter are processed relatively slow. Moreover, we found that social-cognitive abilities impacted the processing of words in general, and of perceptual and cognitive viewpoint markers in particular, such that both perspective-taking abilities and self-reported perspective-taking traits facilitated the processing of these markers. All in all, our study extends earlier findings that social cognition is of importance for story reading, showing that individual differences in social-cognitive abilities are related to the linguistic processing of narrative viewpoint.

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    supplementary material
  • Fernández, G., & HBS Consortium (2021). Protocol of the Healthy Brain Study: An accessible resource for understanding the human brain and how it dynamically and individually operates in its bio-social context. PLoS One, 16(12): e0260952. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0260952.

    Abstract

    The endeavor to understand the human brain has seen more progress in the last few decades than in the previous two millennia. Still, our understanding of how the human brain relates to behavior in the real world and how this link is modulated by biological, social, and environmental factors is limited. To address this, we designed the Healthy Brain Study (HBS), an interdisciplinary, longitudinal, cohort study based on multidimensional, dynamic assessments in both the laboratory and the real world. Here, we describe the rationale and design of the currently ongoing HBS. The HBS is examining a population-based sample of 1,000 healthy participants (age 30-39) who are thoroughly studied across an entire year. Data are collected through cognitive, affective, behavioral, and physiological testing, neuroimaging, bio-sampling, questionnaires, ecological momentary assessment, and real-world assessments using wearable devices. These data will become an accessible resource for the scientific community enabling the next step in understanding the human brain and how it dynamically and individually operates in its bio-social context. An access procedure to the collected data and bio-samples is in place and published on https://www.healthybrainstudy.nl/en/data-and-methods. https://www.trialregister.nl/trial/7955

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  • Giglio, L., Ostarek, M., Weber, K., & Hagoort, P. (2021). Commonalities and asymmetries in the neurobiological infrastructure for language production and comprehension. Cerebral Cortex. Advance online publication. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhab287.

    Abstract

    The neurobiology of sentence production has been largely understudied compared to the neurobiology of sentence comprehension, due to difficulties with experimental control and motion-related artifacts in neuroimaging. We studied the neural response to constituents of increasing size and specifically focused on the similarities and differences in the production and comprehension of the same stimuli. Participants had to either produce or listen to stimuli in a gradient of constituent size based on a visual prompt. Larger constituent sizes engaged the left inferior frontal gyrus (LIFG) and middle temporal gyrus (LMTG) extending to inferior parietal areas in both production and comprehension, confirming that the neural resources for syntactic encoding and decoding are largely overlapping. An ROI analysis in LIFG and LMTG also showed that production elicited larger responses to constituent size than comprehension and that the LMTG was more engaged in comprehension than production, while the LIFG was more engaged in production than comprehension. Finally, increasing constituent size was characterized by later BOLD peaks in comprehension but earlier peaks in production. These results show that syntactic encoding and parsing engage overlapping areas, but there are asymmetries in the engagement of the language network due to the specific requirements of production and comprehension.

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  • Heidlmayr, K., Ferragne, E., & Isel, F. (2021). Neuroplasticity in the phonological system: The PMN and the N400 as markers for the perception of non-native phonemic contrasts by late second language learners. Neuropsychologia, 156: 107831. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2021.107831.

    Abstract

    Second language (L2) learners frequently encounter persistent difficulty in perceiving certain non-native sound contrasts, i.e., a phenomenon called “phonological deafness”. However, if extensive L2 experience leads to neuroplastic changes in the phonological system, then the capacity to discriminate non-native phonemic contrasts should progressively improve. Such perceptual changes should be attested by modifications at the neurophysiological level. We designed an EEG experiment in which the listeners’ perceptual capacities to discriminate second language phonemic contrasts influence the processing of lexical-semantic violations. Semantic congruency of critical words in a sentence context was driven by a phonemic contrast that was unique to the L2, English (e.g.,/ɪ/-/i:/, ship – sheep). Twenty-eight young adult native speakers of French with intermediate proficiency in English listened to sentences that contained either a semantically congruent or incongruent critical word (e.g., The anchor of the ship/*sheep was let down) while EEG was recorded. Three ERP effects were found to relate to increasing L2 proficiency: (1) a left frontal auditory N100 effect, (2) a smaller fronto-central phonological mismatch negativity (PMN) effect and (3) a semantic N400 effect. No effect of proficiency was found on oscillatory markers. The current findings suggest that neuronal plasticity in the human brain allows for the late acquisition of even hard-wired linguistic features such as the discrimination of phonemic contrasts in a second language. This is the first time that behavioral and neurophysiological evidence for the critical role of neural plasticity underlying L2 phonological processing and its interdependence with semantic processing has been provided. Our data strongly support the idea that pieces of information from different levels of linguistic processing (e.g., phonological, semantic) strongly interact and influence each other during online language processing.

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    supplementary material
  • Heyselaar, E., Peeters, D., & Hagoort, P. (2021). Do we predict upcoming speech content in naturalistic environments? Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 36(4), 440-461. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1859568.

    Abstract

    The ability to predict upcoming actions is a hallmark of cognition. It remains unclear, however, whether the predictive behaviour observed in controlled lab environments generalises to rich, everyday settings. In four virtual reality experiments, we tested whether a well-established marker of linguistic prediction (anticipatory eye movements) replicated when increasing the naturalness of the paradigm by means of immersing participants in naturalistic scenes (Experiment 1), increasing the number of distractor objects (Experiment 2), modifying the proportion of predictable noun-referents (Experiment 3), and manipulating the location of referents relative to the joint attentional space (Experiment 4). Robust anticipatory eye movements were observed for Experiments 1–3. The anticipatory effect disappeared, however, in Experiment 4. Our findings suggest that predictive processing occurs in everyday communication if the referents are situated in the joint attentional space. Methodologically, our study confirms that ecological validity and experimental control may go hand-in-hand in the study of human predictive behaviour.
  • Hoeksema, N., Verga, L., Mengede, J., Van Roessel, C., Villanueva, S., Salazar-Casals, A., Rubio-Garcia, A., Curcic-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C., & Ravignani, A. (2021). Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: Bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 376: 20200252. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0252.

    Abstract

    Comparative studies of vocal learning and vocal non-learning animals can increase our understanding of the neurobiology and evolution of vocal learning and human speech. Mammalian vocal learning is understudied: most research has either focused on vocal learning in songbirds or its absence in non-human primates. Here we focus on a highly promising model species for the neurobiology of vocal learning: grey seals. We provide a neuroanatomical atlas (based on dissected brain slices and magnetic resonance images), a labelled MRI template, a 3D model with volumetric measurements of brain regions, and histological cortical stainings. Four main features of the grey seal brain stand out. (1) It is relatively big and highly convoluted. (2) It hosts a relatively large temporal lobe and cerebellum, structures which could support developed timing abilities and acoustic processing. (3) The cortex is similar to humans in thickness and shows the expected six-layered mammalian structure. (4) Expression of FoxP2 - a gene involved in vocal learning and spoken language - is present in deeper layers of the cortex. Our results could facilitate future studies targeting the neural and genetic underpinnings of mammalian vocal learning, thus bridging the research gap from songbirds to humans and non-human primates.Competing Interest StatementThe authors have declared no competing interest.
  • Horan Skilton, A., & Peeters, D. (2021). Cross-linguistic differences in demonstrative systems: Comparing spatial and non-spatial influences on demonstrative use in Ticuna and Dutch. Journal of Pragmatics, 180, 248-265. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2021.05.001.

    Abstract

    In all spoken languages, speakers use demonstratives – words like this and that – to refer to entities in their immediate environment. But which factors determine whether they use one demonstrative (this) or another (that)? Here we report the results of an experiment examining the effects of referent visibility, referent distance, and addressee location on the production of demonstratives by speakers of Ticuna (isolate; Brazil, Colombia, Peru), an Amazonian language with four demonstratives, and speakers of Dutch (Indo-European; Netherlands, Belgium), which has two demonstratives. We found that Ticuna speakers’ use of demonstratives displayed effects of addressee location and referent distance, but not referent visibility. By contrast, under comparable conditions, Dutch speakers displayed sensitivity only to referent distance. Interestingly, we also observed that Ticuna speakers consistently used demonstratives in all referential utterances in our experimental paradigm, while Dutch speakers strongly preferred to use definite articles. Taken together, these findings shed light on the significant diversity found in demonstrative systems across languages. Additionally, they invite researchers studying exophoric demonstratives to broaden their horizons by cross-linguistically investigating the factors involved in speakers’ choice of demonstratives over other types of referring expressions, especially articles.
  • Huizeling, E., Wang, H., Holland, C., & Kessler, K. (2021). Changes in theta and alpha oscillatory signatures of attentional control in older and middle age. European Journal of Neuroscience, 54(1), 4314-4337. doi:10.1111/ejn.15259.

    Abstract

    Recent behavioural research has reported age-related changes in the costs of refocusing attention from a temporal (rapid serial visual presentation) to a spatial (visual search) task. Using magnetoencephalography, we have now compared the neural signatures of attention refocusing between three age groups (19–30, 40–49 and 60+ years) and found differences in task-related modulation and cortical localisation of alpha and theta oscillations. Efficient, faster refocusing in the youngest group compared to both middle age and older groups was reflected in parietal theta effects that were significantly reduced in the older groups. Residual parietal theta activity in older individuals was beneficial to attentional refocusing and could reflect preserved attention mechanisms. Slowed refocusing of attention, especially when a target required consolidation, in the older and middle-aged adults was accompanied by a posterior theta deficit and increased recruitment of frontal (middle-aged and older groups) and temporal (older group only) areas, demonstrating a posterior to anterior processing shift. Theta but not alpha modulation correlated with task performance, suggesting that older adults' stronger and more widely distributed alpha power modulation could reflect decreased neural precision or dedifferentiation but requires further investigation. Our results demonstrate that older adults present with different alpha and theta oscillatory signatures during attentional control, reflecting cognitive decline and, potentially, also different cognitive strategies in an attempt to compensate for decline.

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  • Huizeling, E., Peeters, D., & Hagoort, P. (2021). Prediction of upcoming speech under fluent and disfluent conditions: Eye tracking evidence from immersive virtual reality. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/23273798.2021.1994621.

    Abstract

    Traditional experiments indicate that prediction is important for efficient speech processing. In three virtual reality visual world paradigm experiments, we tested whether such findings hold in naturalistic settings (Experiment 1) and provided novel insights into whether disfluencies in speech (repairs/hesitations) inform one’s predictions in rich environments (Experiments 2–3). Experiment 1 supports that listeners predict upcoming speech in naturalistic environments, with higher proportions of anticipatory target fixations in predictable compared to unpredictable trials. In Experiments 2–3, disfluencies reduced anticipatory fixations towards predicted referents, compared to conjunction (Experiment 2) and fluent (Experiment 3) sentences. Unexpectedly, Experiment 2 provided no evidence that participants made new predictions from a repaired verb. Experiment 3 provided novel findings that fixations towards the speaker increase upon hearing a hesitation, supporting current theories of how hesitations influence sentence processing. Together, these findings unpack listeners’ use of visual (objects/speaker) and auditory (speech/disfluencies) information when predicting upcoming words.
  • Huizeling, E., Arana, S., Hagoort, P., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2021). Lexical frequency and sentence context influence the brain’s response to single words. Neurobiology of Language. Advance online publication. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00054.

    Abstract

    Typical adults read remarkably quickly. Such fast reading is facilitated by brain processes that are sensitive to both word frequency and contextual constraints. It is debated as to whether these attributes have additive or interactive effects on language processing in the brain. We investigated this issue by analysing existing magnetoencephalography data from 99 participants reading intact and scrambled sentences. Using a cross-validated model comparison scheme, we found that lexical frequency predicted the word-by-word elicited MEG signal in a widespread cortical network, irrespective of sentential context. In contrast, index (ordinal word position) was more strongly encoded in sentence words, in left front-temporal areas. This confirms that frequency influences word processing independently of predictability, and that contextual constraints affect word-by-word brain responses. With a conservative multiple comparisons correction, only the interaction between lexical frequency and surprisal survived, in anterior temporal and frontal cortex, and not between lexical frequency and entropy, nor between lexical frequency and index. However, interestingly, the uncorrected index*frequency interaction revealed an effect in left frontal and temporal cortex that reversed in time and space for intact compared to scrambled sentences. Finally, we provide evidence to suggest that, in sentences, lexical frequency and predictability may independently influence early (<150ms) and late stages of word processing, but interact during later stages of word processing (>150-250ms), thus helping to converge previous contradictory eye-tracking and electrophysiological literature. Current neuro-cognitive models of reading would benefit from accounting for these differing effects of lexical frequency and predictability on different stages of word processing.
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Corpus-based typology: Applications, challenges and some solutions. Linguistic Typology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1515/lingty-2020-0118.

    Abstract

    Over the last few years, the number of corpora that can be used for language comparison has dramatically increased. The corpora are so diverse in their structure, size and annotation style, that a novice might not know where to start. The present paper charts this new and changing territory, providing a few landmarks, warning signs and safe paths. Although no corpora corpus at present can replace the traditional type of typological data based on language description in reference grammars, they corpora can help with diverse tasks, being particularly well suited for investigating probabilistic and gradient properties of languages and for discovering and interpreting cross-linguistic generalizations based on processing and communicative mechanisms. At the same time, the use of corpora for typological purposes has not only advantages and opportunities, but also numerous challenges. This paper also contains an empirical case study addressing two pertinent problems: the role of text types in language comparison and the problem of the word as a comparative concept.
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Communicative efficiency and differential case marking: A reverse-engineering approach. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(s3): 20190087. doi:10.1515/lingvan-2019-0087.
  • Levshina, N., & Moran, S. (2021). Efficiency in human languages: Corpus evidence for universal principles. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(s3): 20200081. doi:10.1515/lingvan-2020-0081.

    Abstract

    Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in communicative efficiency. It has been argued that language users act efficiently, saving effort for processing and articulation, and that language structure and use reflect this tendency. The emergence of new corpus data has brought to life numerous studies on efficient language use in the lexicon, in morphosyntax, and in discourse and phonology in different languages. In this introductory paper, we discuss communicative efficiency in human languages, focusing on evidence of efficient language use found in multilingual corpora. The evidence suggests that efficiency is a universal feature of human language. We provide an overview of different manifestations of efficiency on different levels of language structure, and we discuss the major questions and findings so far, some of which are addressed for the first time in the contributions in this special collection.
  • Levshina, N., & Moran, S. (Eds.). (2021). Efficiency in human languages: Corpus evidence for universal principles [Special Issue]. Linguistics Vanguard, 7(s3).
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Conditional inference trees and random forests. In M. Paquot, & T. Gries (Eds.), Practical Handbook of Corpus Linguistics (pp. 611-643). New York: Springer.
  • Levshina, N. (2021). Cross-linguistic trade-offs and causal relationships between cues to grammatical subject and object, and the problem of efficiency-related explanations. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 648200. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648200.

    Abstract

    Cross-linguistic studies focus on inverse correlations (trade-offs) between linguistic variables that reflect different cues to linguistic meanings. For example, if a language has no case marking, it is likely to rely on word order as a cue for identification of grammatical roles. Such inverse correlations are interpreted as manifestations of language users’ tendency to use language efficiently. The present study argues that this interpretation is problematic. Linguistic variables, such as the presence of case, or flexibility of word order, are aggregate properties, which do not represent the use of linguistic cues in context directly. Still, such variables can be useful for circumscribing the potential role of communicative efficiency in language evolution, if we move from cross-linguistic trade-offs to multivariate causal networks. This idea is illustrated by a case study of linguistic variables related to four types of Subject and Object cues: case marking, rigid word order of Subject and Object, tight semantics and verb-medial order. The variables are obtained from online language corpora in thirty languages, annotated with the Universal Dependencies. The causal model suggests that the relationships between the variables can be explained predominantly by sociolinguistic factors, leaving little space for a potential impact of efficient linguistic behavior.
  • Lopopolo, A., Van de Bosch, A., Petersson, K. M., & Willems, R. M. (2021). Distinguishing syntactic operations in the brain: Dependency and phrase-structure parsing. Neurobiology of Language, 2(1), 152-175. doi:10.1162/nol_a_00029.

    Abstract

    Finding the structure of a sentence — the way its words hold together to convey meaning — is a fundamental step in language comprehension. Several brain regions, including the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left posterior superior temporal gyrus, and the left anterior temporal pole, are supposed to support this operation. The exact role of these areas is nonetheless still debated. In this paper we investigate the hypothesis that different brain regions could be sensitive to different kinds of syntactic computations. We compare the fit of phrase-structure and dependency structure descriptors to activity in brain areas using fMRI. Our results show a division between areas with regard to the type of structure computed, with the left ATP and left IFG favouring dependency structures and left pSTG favouring phrase structures.
  • Mickan, A., McQueen, J. M., Valentini, B., Piai, V., & Lemhöfer, K. (2021). Electrophysiological evidence for cross-language interference in foreign-language attrition. Neuropsychologia, 155: 107795. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2021.107795.

    Abstract

    Foreign language attrition (FLA) appears to be driven by interference from other, more recently-used languages (Mickan et al., 2020). Here we tracked these interference dynamics electrophysiologically to further our understanding of the underlying processes. Twenty-seven Dutch native speakers learned 70 new Italian words over two days. On a third day, EEG was recorded as they performed naming tasks on half of these words in English and, finally, as their memory for all the Italian words was tested in a picture-naming task. Replicating Mickan et al., recall was slower and tended to be less complete for Italian words that were interfered with (i.e., named in English) than for words that were not. These behavioral interference effects were accompanied by an enhanced frontal N2 and a decreased late positivity (LPC) for interfered compared to not-interfered items. Moreover, interfered items elicited more theta power. We also found an increased N2 during the interference phase for items that participants were later slower to retrieve in Italian. We interpret the N2 and theta effects as markers of interference, in line with the idea that Italian retrieval at final test is hampered by competition from recently practiced English translations. The LPC, in turn, reflects the consequences of interference: the reduced accessibility of interfered Italian labels. Finally, that retrieval ease at final test was related to the degree of interference during previous English retrieval shows that FLA is already set in motion during the interference phase, and hence can be the direct consequence of using other languages.

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    data via Donders Repository
  • Misersky, J., Slivac, K., Hagoort, P., & Flecken, M. (2021). The State of the Onion: Grammatical aspect modulates object representation during event comprehension. Cognition, 214: 104744. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104744.

    Abstract

    The present ERP study assessed whether grammatical aspect is used as a cue in online event comprehension, in particular when reading about events in which an object is visually changed. While perfective aspect cues holistic event representations, including an event's endpoint, progressive aspect highlights intermediate phases of an event. In a 2 × 3 design, participants read SVO sentences describing a change-of-state event (e.g., to chop an onion), with grammatical Aspect manipulated (perfective “chopped” vs progressive “was chopping”). Thereafter, they saw a Picture of an object either having undergone substantial state-change (SC; a chopped onion), no state-change (NSC; an onion in its original state) or an unrelated object (U; a cactus, acting as control condition). Their task was to decide whether the object in the Picture was mentioned in the sentence. We focused on N400 modulation, with ERPs time-locked to picture onset. U pictures elicited an N400 response as expected, suggesting detection of categorical mismatches in object type. For SC and NSC pictures, a whole-head follow-up analysis revealed a P300, implying people were engaged in detailed evaluation of pictures of matching objects. SC pictures received most positive responses overall. Crucially, there was an interaction of Aspect and Picture: SC pictures resulted in a higher amplitude P300 after sentences in the perfective compared to the progressive. Thus, while the perfective cued for a holistic event representation, including the resultant state of the affected object (i.e., the chopped onion) constraining object representations online, the progressive defocused event completion and object-state change. Grammatical aspect thus guided online event comprehension by cueing the visual representation(s) of an object's state.
  • Montero-Melis, G. (2021). Consistency in motion event encoding across languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 625153. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.625153.

    Abstract

    Syntactic templates serve as schemas, allowing speakers to describe complex events in a systematic fashion. Motion events have long served as a prime example of how different languages favor different syntactic frames, in turn biasing their speakers towards different event conceptualizations. However, there is also variability in how motion events are syntactically framed within languages. Here we measure the consistency in event encoding in two languages, Spanish and Swedish. We test a dominant account in the literature, namely that variability within a language can be explained by specific properties of the events. This event-properties account predicts that descriptions of one and the same event should be consistent within a language, even in languages where there is overall variability in the use of syntactic frames. Spanish and Swedish speakers (N=84) described 32 caused motion events. While the most frequent syntactic framing in each language was as expected based on typology (Spanish: verb-framed, Swedish: satellite-framed, cf. Talmy, 2000), Swedish descriptions were substantially more consistent than Spanish descriptions. Swedish speakers almost invariably encoded all events with a single syntactic frame and systematically conveyed manner of motion. Spanish descriptions, in contrast, varied much more regarding syntactic framing and expression of manner. Crucially, variability in Spanish descriptions was not mainly a function of differences between events, as predicted by the event-properties account. Rather, Spanish variability in syntactic framing was driven by speaker biases. A similar picture arose for whether Spanish descriptions expressed manner information or not: Even after accounting for the effect of syntactic choice, a large portion of the variance in Spanish manner encoding remained attributable to differences among speakers. The results show that consistency in motion event encoding starkly differs across languages: Some languages (like Swedish) bias their speakers towards a particular linguistic event schema much more than others (like Spanish). Implications of these findings are discussed with respect to the typology of event framing, theories on the relationship between language and thought, and speech planning. In addition, the tools employed here to quantify variability can be applied to other domains of language.

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    data and analysis scripts
  • Morey, R. D., Kaschak, M. P., Díez-Álamo, A. M., Glenberg, A. M., Zwaan, R. A., Lakens, D., Ibáñez, A., García, A., Gianelli, C., Jones, J. L., Madden, J., Alifano, F., Bergen, B., Bloxsom, N. G., Bub, D. N., Cai, Z. G., Chartier, C. R., Chatterjee, A., Conwell, E., Cook, S. W. and 25 moreMorey, R. D., Kaschak, M. P., Díez-Álamo, A. M., Glenberg, A. M., Zwaan, R. A., Lakens, D., Ibáñez, A., García, A., Gianelli, C., Jones, J. L., Madden, J., Alifano, F., Bergen, B., Bloxsom, N. G., Bub, D. N., Cai, Z. G., Chartier, C. R., Chatterjee, A., Conwell, E., Cook, S. W., Davis, J. D., Evers, E., Girard, S., Harter, D., Hartung, F., Herrera, E., Huettig, F., Humphries, S., Juanchich, M., Kühne, K., Lu, S., Lynes, T., Masson, M. E. J., Ostarek, M., Pessers, S., Reglin, R., Steegen, S., Thiessen, E. D., Thomas, L. E., Trott, S., Vandekerckhove, J., Vanpaemel, W., Vlachou, M., Williams, K., & Ziv-Crispel, N. (2021). A pre-registered, multi-lab non-replication of the Action-sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE). Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advance online publication. doi:10.3758/s13423-021-01927-8.

    Abstract

    The Action-sentence Compatibility Effect (ACE) is a well-known demonstration of the role of motor activity in the comprehension of language. Participants are asked to make sensibility judgments on sentences by producing movements toward the body or away from the body. The ACE is the finding that movements are faster when the direction of the movement (e.g., toward) matches the direction of the action in the to-be-judged sentence (e.g., Art gave you the pen describes action toward you). We report on a pre- registered, multi-lab replication of one version of the ACE. The results show that none of the 18 labs involved in the study observed a reliable ACE, and that the meta-analytic estimate of the size of the ACE was essentially zero.
  • Nieuwland, M. S. (2021). How ‘rational’ is semantic prediction? A critique and re-analysis of. Cognition, 215: 104848. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104848.

    Abstract

    In a recent article in Cognition, Delaney-Busch et al. (2019) claim evidence for ‘rational’, Bayesian adaptation of semantic predictions, using ERP data from Lau, Holcomb, and Kuperberg (2013). Participants read associatively related and unrelated prime-target word pairs in a first block with only 10% related trials and a second block with 50%. Related words elicited smaller N400s than unrelated words, and this difference was strongest in the second block, suggesting greater engagement in predictive processing. Using a rational adaptor model, Delaney-Busch et al. argue that the stronger N400 reduction for related words in the second block developed as a function of the number of related trials, and concluded therefore that participants predicted related words more strongly when their predictions were fulfilled more often. In this critique, I discuss two critical flaws in their analyses, namely the confounding of prediction effects with those of lexical frequency and the neglect of data from the first block. Re-analyses suggest a different picture: related words by themselves did not yield support for their conclusion, and the effect of relatedness gradually strengthened in othe two blocks in a similar way. Therefore, the N400 did not yield evidence that participants rationally adapted their semantic predictions. Within the framework proposed by Delaney-Busch et al., presumed semantic predictions may even be thought of as ‘irrational’. While these results yielded no evidence for rational or probabilistic prediction, they do suggest that participants became increasingly better at predicting target words from prime words.
  • Nieuwland, M. S. (2021). Commentary: Rational adaptation in lexical prediction: The influence of prediction strength. Frontiers in Psychology, 12: 735849. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.735849.
  • Ortega, G., & Ostarek, M. (2021). Evidence for visual simulation during sign language processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(10), 2158-2166. doi:10.1037/xge0001041.

    Abstract

    What are the mental processes that allow us to understand the meaning of words? A large body of evidence suggests that when we process speech, we engage a process of perceptual simulation whereby sensorimotor states are activated as a source of semantic information. But does the same process take place when words are expressed with the hands and perceived through the eyes? To date, it is not known whether perceptual simulation is also observed in sign languages, the manual-visual languages of deaf communities. Continuous flash suppression is a method that addresses this question by measuring the effect of language on detection sensitivity to images that are suppressed from awareness. In spoken languages, it has been reported that listening to a word (e.g., “bottle”) activates visual features of an object (e.g., the shape of a bottle), and this in turn facilitates image detection. An interesting but untested question is whether the same process takes place when deaf signers see signs. We found that processing signs boosted the detection of congruent images, making otherwise invisible pictures visible. A boost of visual processing was observed only for signers but not for hearing nonsigners, suggesting that the penetration of the visual system through signs requires a fully fledged manual language. Iconicity did not modulate the effect of signs on detection, neither in signers nor in hearing nonsigners. This suggests that visual simulation during language processing occurs regardless of language modality (sign vs. speech) or iconicity, pointing to a foundational role of simulation for language comprehension.

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  • Ostarek, M., & Bottini, R. (2021). Towards strong inference in research on embodiment – Possibilities and limitations of causal paradigms. Journal of Cognition, 4(1): 5. doi:10.5334/joc.139.

    Abstract

    A central question in the cognitive sciences is which role embodiment plays for high- level cognitive functions, such as conceptual processing. here, we propose that one reason why progress regarding this question has been slow is a lacking focus on what platt (1964) called “strong inference”. strong inference is possible when results from an experimental paradigm are not merely consistent with a hypothesis, but they provide decisive evidence for one particular hypothesis compared to competing hypotheses. We discuss how causal paradigms, which test the functional relevance of sensory-motor processes for high-level cognitive functions, can move the field forward. in particular, we explore how congenital sensory-motor disorders, acquired sensory-motor deficits, and interference paradigms with healthy participants can be utilized as an opportunity to better understand the role of sensory experience in conceptual processing. Whereas all three approaches can bring about valuable insights, we highlight that the study of congenitally and acquired sensorimotor disorders is particularly effective in the case of conceptual domains with strong unimodal basis (e.g., colors), whereas interference paradigms with healthy participants have a broader application, avoid many of the practical and interpretational limitations of patient studies, and allow a systematic and step-wise progressive inference approach to causal mechanisms.
  • Poletiek, F. H., Monaghan, P., van de Velde, M., & Bocanegra, B. R. (2021). The semantics-syntax interface: Learning grammatical categories and hierarchical syntactic structure through semantics. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 47(7), 1141-1155. doi:10.1037/xlm0001044.

    Abstract

    Language is infinitely productive because syntax defines dependencies between grammatical categories of words and constituents, so there is interchangeability of these words and constituents within syntactic structures. Previous laboratory-based studies of language learning have shown that complex language structures like hierarchical center embeddings (HCE) are very hard to learn, but these studies tend to simplify the language learning task, omitting semantics and focusing either on learning dependencies between individual words or on acquiring the category membership of those words. We tested whether categories of words and dependencies between these categories and between constituents, could be learned simultaneously in an artificial language with HCE’s, when accompanied by scenes illustrating the sentence’s intended meaning. Across four experiments, we showed that participants were able to learn the HCE language varying words across categories and category-dependencies, and constituents across constituents-dependencies. They also were able to generalize the learned structure to novel sentences and novel scenes that they had not previously experienced. This simultaneous learning resulting in a productive complex language system, may be a consequence of grounding complex syntax acquisition in semantics.
  • Preisig, B., Riecke, L., Sjerps, M. J., Kösem, A., Kop, B. R., Bramson, B., Hagoort, P., & Hervais-Adelman, A. (2021). Selective modulation of interhemispheric connectivity by transcranial alternating current stimulation influences binaural integration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(7): e2015488118. doi:10.1073/pnas.2015488118.

    Abstract

    Brain connectivity plays a major role in the encoding, transfer, and integration of sensory information. Interregional synchronization of neural oscillations in the γ-frequency band has been suggested as a key mechanism underlying perceptual integration. In a recent study, we found evidence for this hypothesis showing that the modulation of interhemispheric oscillatory synchrony by means of bihemispheric high-density transcranial alternating current stimulation (HD-TACS) affects binaural integration of dichotic acoustic features. Here, we aimed to establish a direct link between oscillatory synchrony, effective brain connectivity, and binaural integration. We experimentally manipulated oscillatory synchrony (using bihemispheric γ-TACS with different interhemispheric phase lags) and assessed the effect on effective brain connectivity and binaural integration (as measured with functional MRI and a dichotic listening task, respectively). We found that TACS reduced intrahemispheric connectivity within the auditory cortices and antiphase (interhemispheric phase lag 180°) TACS modulated connectivity between the two auditory cortices. Importantly, the changes in intra- and interhemispheric connectivity induced by TACS were correlated with changes in perceptual integration. Our results indicate that γ-band synchronization between the two auditory cortices plays a functional role in binaural integration, supporting the proposed role of interregional oscillatory synchrony in perceptual integration.
  • Santin, M., Van Hout, A., & Flecken, M. (2021). Event endings in memory and language. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 36(5), 625-648. doi:10.1080/23273798.2020.1868542.

    Abstract

    Memory is fundamental for comprehending and segmenting the flow of activity around us into units called “events”. Here, we investigate the effect of the movement dynamics of actions (ceased, ongoing) and the inner structure of events (with or without object-state change) on people's event memory. Furthermore, we investigate how describing events, and the meaning and form of verb predicates used (denoting a culmination moment, or not, in single verbs or verb-satellite constructions), affects event memory. Before taking a surprise recognition task, Spanish and Mandarin speakers (who lexicalise culmination in different verb predicate forms) watched short videos of events, either in a non-verbal (probe-recognition) or a verbal experiment (event description). Results show that culminated events (i.e. ceased change-of-state events) were remembered best across experiments. Language use showed to enhance memory overall. Further, the form of the verb predicates used for denoting culmination had a moderate effect on memory.
  • Sauppe, S., & Flecken, M. (2021). Speaking for seeing: Sentence structure guides visual event apprehension. Cognition, 206: 104516. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104516.

    Abstract

    Human experience and communication are centred on events, and event apprehension is a rapid process that draws on the visual perception and immediate categorization of event roles (“who does what to whom”). We demonstrate a role for syntactic structure in visual information uptake for event apprehension. An event structure foregrounding either the agent or patient was activated during speaking, transiently modulating the apprehension of subsequently viewed unrelated events. Speakers of Dutch described pictures with actives and passives (agent and patient foregrounding, respectively). First fixations on pictures of unrelated events that were briefly presented (for 300 ms) next were influenced by the active or passive structure of the previously produced sentence. Going beyond the study of how single words cue object perception, we show that sentence structure guides the viewpoint taken during rapid event apprehension.

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  • Slivac, K., Hervais-Adelman, A., Hagoort, P., & Flecken, M. (2021). Linguistic labels cue biological motion perception and misperception. Scientific Reports, 11: 17239. doi:10.1038/s41598-021-96649-1.

    Abstract

    Linguistic labels exert a particularly strong top-down influence on perception. The potency of this influence has been ascribed to their ability to evoke category-diagnostic features of concepts. In doing this, they facilitate the formation of a perceptual template concordant with those features, effectively biasing perceptual activation towards the labelled category. In this study, we employ a cueing paradigm with moving, point-light stimuli across three experiments, in order to examine how the number of biological motion features (form and kinematics) encoded in lexical cues modulates the efficacy of lexical top-down influence on perception. We find that the magnitude of lexical influence on biological motion perception rises as a function of the number of biological motion-relevant features carried by both cue and target. When lexical cues encode multiple biological motion features, this influence is robust enough to mislead participants into reporting erroneous percepts, even when a masking level yielding high performance is used.
  • Van Bergen, G., & Hogeweg, L. (2021). Managing interpersonal discourse expectations: a comparative analysis of contrastive discourse particles in Dutch. Linguistics, 59(2), 333-360. doi:10.1515/ling-2021-0020.

    Abstract

    In this article we investigate how speakers manage discourse expectations in dialogue by comparing the meaning and use of three Dutch discourse particles, i.e. wel, toch and eigenlijk, which all express a contrast between their host utterance and a discourse-based expectation. The core meanings of toch, wel and eigenlijk are formally distinguished on the basis of two intersubjective parameters: (i) whether the particle marks alignment or misalignment between speaker and addressee discourse beliefs, and (ii) whether the particle requires an assessment of the addressee’s representation of mutual discourse beliefs. By means of a quantitative corpus study, we investigate to what extent the intersubjective meaning distinctions between wel, toch and eigenlijk are reflected in statistical usage patterns across different social situations. Results suggest that wel, toch and eigenlijk are lexicalizations of distinct generalized politeness strategies when expressing contrast in social interaction. Our findings call for an interdisciplinary approach to discourse particles in order to enhance our understanding of their functions in language.
  • Van Paridon, J., Ostarek, M., Arunkumar, M., & Huettig, F. (2021). Does neuronal recycling result in destructive competition? The influence of learning to read on the recognition of faces. Psychological Science, 32, 459-465. doi:10.1177/0956797620971652.

    Abstract

    Written language, a human cultural invention, is far too recent for dedicated neural infrastructure to have evolved in its service. Culturally newly acquired skills (e.g. reading) thus ‘recycle’ evolutionarily older circuits that originally evolved for different, but similar functions (e.g. visual object recognition). The destructive competition hypothesis predicts that this neuronal recycling has detrimental behavioral effects on the cognitive functions a cortical network originally evolved for. In a study with 97 literate, low-literate, and illiterate participants from the same socioeconomic background we find that even after adjusting for cognitive ability and test-taking familiarity, learning to read is associated with an increase, rather than a decrease, in object recognition abilities. These results are incompatible with the claim that neuronal recycling results in destructive competition and consistent with the possibility that learning to read instead fine-tunes general object recognition mechanisms, a hypothesis that needs further neuroscientific investigation.

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  • Vega-Mendoza, M., Pickering, M. J., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2021). Concurrent use of animacy and event-knowledge during comprehension: Evidence from event-related potentials. Neuropsychologia, 152: 107724. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2020.107724.

    Abstract

    In two ERP experiments, we investigated whether readers prioritize animacy over real-world event-knowledge during sentence comprehension. We used the paradigm of Paczynski and Kuperberg (2012), who argued that animacy is prioritized based on the observations that the ‘related anomaly effect’ (reduced N400s for context-related anomalous words compared to unrelated words) does not occur for animacy violations, and that animacy violations but not relatedness violations elicit P600 effects. Participants read passive sentences with plausible agents (e.g., The prescription for the mental disorder was written by the psychiatrist) or implausible agents that varied in animacy and semantic relatedness (schizophrenic/guard/pill/fence). In Experiment 1 (with a plausibility judgment task), plausible sentences elicited smaller N400s relative to all types of implausible sentences. Crucially, animate words elicited smaller N400s than inanimate words, and related words elicited smaller N400s than unrelated words, but Bayesian analysis revealed substantial evidence against an interaction between animacy and relatedness. Moreover, at the P600 time-window, we observed more positive ERPs for animate than inanimate words and for related than unrelated words at anterior regions. In Experiment 2 (without judgment task), we observed an N400 effect with animacy violations, but no other effects. Taken together, the results of our experiments fail to support a prioritized role of animacy information over real-world event-knowledge, but they support an interactive, constraint-based view on incremental semantic processing.
  • Verdonschot, R. G., Phu'o'ng, H. T. L., & Tamaoka, K. (2021). Phonological encoding in Vietnamese: An experimental investigation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi:10.1177/17470218211053244.

    Abstract

    In English, Dutch, and other Germanic languages the initial phonological unit used in word production has been shown to be the phoneme; conversely, others have revealed that in Chinese this is the atonal syllable and in Japanese the mora. The current paper is, to our knowledge, the first to report chronometric data on Vietnamese phonological encoding. Vietnamese, a tonal language, is of interest as, despite its Austroasiatic roots, it has clear similarities with Chinese through extended contact over a prolonged period. Four experiments (i.e., masked priming, phonological Stroop, picture naming with written distractors, picture naming with auditory distractors) have been conducted to investigate Vietnamese phonological encoding. Results show that in all four experiments both onset effects as well as whole syllable effects emerge. This indicates that the fundamental phonological encoding unit during Vietnamese language production is the phoneme despite its apparent similarities to Chinese. This result might have emerged due to tone assignment being a qualitatively different process in Vietnamese compared to Chinese.
  • Willems, R. M., & Peelen, M. V. (2021). How context changes the neural basis of perception and language. iScience, 24(5): 102392. doi:10.1016/j.isci.2021.102392.

    Abstract

    Cognitive processes—from basic sensory analysis to language understanding—are typically contextualized. While the importance of considering context for understanding cognition has long been recognized in psychology and philosophy, it has not yet had much impact on cognitive neuroscience research, where cognition is often studied in decontextualized paradigms. Here, we present examples of recent studies showing that context changes the neural basis of diverse cognitive processes, including perception, attention, memory, and language. Within the domains of perception and language, we review neuroimaging results showing that context interacts with stimulus processing, changes activity in classical perception and language regions, and recruits additional brain regions that contribute crucially to naturalistic perception and language. We discuss how contextualized cognitive neuroscience will allow for discovering new principles of the mind and brain.
  • Zora, H., & Csépe, V. (2021). Perception of Prosodic Modulations of Linguistic and Paralinguistic Origin: Evidence From Early Auditory Event-Related Potentials. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 15: 797487. doi:10.3389/fnins.2021.797487.

    Abstract

    How listeners handle prosodic cues of linguistic and paralinguistic origin is a central question for spoken communication. In the present EEG study, we addressed this question by examining neural responses to variations in pitch accent (linguistic) and affective (paralinguistic) prosody in Swedish words, using a passive auditory oddball paradigm. The results indicated that changes in pitch accent and affective prosody elicited mismatch negativity (MMN) responses at around 200 ms, confirming the brain’s pre-attentive response to any prosodic modulation. The MMN amplitude was, however, statistically larger to the deviation in affective prosody in comparison to the deviation in pitch accent and affective prosody combined, which is in line with previous research indicating not only a larger MMN response to affective prosody in comparison to neutral prosody but also a smaller MMN response to multidimensional deviants than unidimensional ones. The results, further, showed a significant P3a response to the affective prosody change in comparison to the pitch accent change at around 300 ms, in accordance with previous findings showing an enhanced positive response to emotional stimuli. The present findings provide evidence for distinct neural processing of different prosodic cues, and statistically confirm the intrinsic perceptual and motivational salience of paralinguistic information in spoken communication.
  • Arana, S., Marquand, A., Hulten, A., Hagoort, P., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2020). Sensory modality-independent activation of the brain network for language. The Journal of Neuroscience, 40(14), 2914-2924. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2271-19.2020.

    Abstract

    The meaning of a sentence can be understood, whether presented in written or spoken form. Therefore it is highly probable that brain processes supporting language comprehension are at least partly independent of sensory modality. To identify where and when in the brain language processing is independent of sensory modality, we directly compared neuromagnetic brain signals of 200 human subjects (102 males) either reading or listening to sentences. We used multiset canonical correlation analysis to align individual subject data in a way that boosts those aspects of the signal that are common to all, allowing us to capture word-by-word signal variations, consistent across subjects and at a fine temporal scale. Quantifying this consistency in activation across both reading and listening tasks revealed a mostly left hemispheric cortical network. Areas showing consistent activity patterns include not only areas previously implicated in higher-level language processing, such as left prefrontal, superior & middle temporal areas and anterior temporal lobe, but also parts of the control-network as well as subcentral and more posterior temporal-parietal areas. Activity in this supramodal sentence processing network starts in temporal areas and rapidly spreads to the other regions involved. The findings do not only indicate the involvement of a large network of brain areas in supramodal language processing, but also indicate that the linguistic information contained in the unfolding sentences modulates brain activity in a word-specific manner across subjects.
  • Bosker, H. R., Peeters, D., & Holler, J. (2020). How visual cues to speech rate influence speech perception. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 73(10), 1523-1536. doi:10.1177/1747021820914564.

    Abstract

    Spoken words are highly variable and therefore listeners interpret speech sounds relative to the surrounding acoustic context, such as the speech rate of a preceding sentence. For instance, a vowel midway between short /ɑ/ and long /a:/ in Dutch is perceived as short /ɑ/ in the context of preceding slow speech, but as long /a:/ if preceded by a fast context. Despite the well-established influence of visual articulatory cues on speech comprehension, it remains unclear whether visual cues to speech rate also influence subsequent spoken word recognition. In two ‘Go Fish’-like experiments, participants were presented with audio-only (auditory speech + fixation cross), visual-only (mute videos of talking head), and audiovisual (speech + videos) context sentences, followed by ambiguous target words containing vowels midway between short /ɑ/ and long /a:/. In Experiment 1, target words were always presented auditorily, without visual articulatory cues. Although the audio-only and audiovisual contexts induced a rate effect (i.e., more long /a:/ responses after fast contexts), the visual-only condition did not. When, in Experiment 2, target words were presented audiovisually, rate effects were observed in all three conditions, including visual-only. This suggests that visual cues to speech rate in a context sentence influence the perception of following visual target cues (e.g., duration of lip aperture), which at an audiovisual integration stage bias participants’ target categorization responses. These findings contribute to a better understanding of how what we see influences what we hear.
  • Bosker, H. R., Sjerps, M. J., & Reinisch, E. (2020). Temporal contrast effects in human speech perception are immune to selective attention. Scientific Reports, 10: 5607. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-62613-8.

    Abstract

    Two fundamental properties of perception are selective attention and perceptual contrast, but how these two processes interact remains unknown. Does an attended stimulus history exert a larger contrastive influence on the perception of a following target than unattended stimuli? Dutch listeners categorized target sounds with a reduced prefix “ge-” marking tense (e.g., ambiguous between gegaan-gaan “gone-go”). In ‘single talker’ Experiments 1–2, participants perceived the reduced syllable (reporting gegaan) when the target was heard after a fast sentence, but not after a slow sentence (reporting gaan). In ‘selective attention’ Experiments 3–5, participants listened to two simultaneous sentences from two different talkers, followed by the same target sounds, with instructions to attend only one of the two talkers. Critically, the speech rates of attended and unattended talkers were found to equally influence target perception – even when participants could watch the attended talker speak. In fact, participants’ target perception in ‘selective attention’ Experiments 3–5 did not differ from participants who were explicitly instructed to divide their attention equally across the two talkers (Experiment 6). This suggests that contrast effects of speech rate are immune to selective attention, largely operating prior to attentional stream segregation in the auditory processing hierarchy.

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  • Bouhali, F., Mongelli, V., Thiebaut de Schotten, M., & Cohen, L. (2020). Reading music and words: The anatomical connectivity of musicians’ visual cortex. NeuroImage, 212: 116666. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116666.

    Abstract

    Musical score reading and word reading have much in common, from their historical origins to their cognitive foundations and neural correlates. In the ventral occipitotemporal cortex (VOT), the specialization of the so-called Visual Word Form Area for word reading has been linked to its privileged structural connectivity to distant language regions. Here we investigated how anatomical connectivity relates to the segregation of regions specialized for musical notation or words in the VOT. In a cohort of professional musicians and non-musicians, we used probabilistic tractography combined with task-related functional MRI to identify the connections of individually defined word- and music-selective left VOT regions. Despite their close proximity, these regions differed significantly in their structural connectivity, irrespective of musical expertise. The music-selective region was significantly more connected to posterior lateral temporal regions than the word-selective region, which, conversely, was significantly more connected to anterior ventral temporal cortex. Furthermore, musical expertise had a double impact on the connectivity of the music region. First, music tracts were significantly larger in musicians than in non-musicians, associated with marginally higher connectivity to perisylvian music-related areas. Second, the spatial similarity between music and word tracts was significantly increased in musicians, consistently with the increased overlap of language and music functional activations in musicians, as compared to non-musicians. These results support the view that, for music as for words, very specific anatomical connections influence the specialization of distinct VOT areas, and that reciprocally those connections are selectively enhanced by the expertise for word or music reading.

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  • Casasanto, D., Casasanto, L. S., Gijssels, T., & Hagoort, P. (2020). The Reverse Chameleon Effect: Negative social consequences of anatomical mimicry. Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 1876. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01876.

    Abstract

    Bodily mimicry often makes the mimickee have more positive feelings about the mimicker. Yet, little is known about the causes of mimicry’s social effects. When people mimic each other’s bodily movements face to face, they can either adopt a mirrorwise perspective (moving in the same absolute direction) or an anatomical perspective (moving in the same direction relative to their own bodies). Mirrorwise mimicry maximizes visuo-spatial similarity between the mimicker and mimickee, whereas anatomical mimicry maximizes the similarity in the states of their motor systems. To compare the social consequences of visuo-spatial and motoric similarity, we asked participants to converse with an embodied virtual agent (VIRTUO), who mimicked their head movements either mirrorwise, anatomically, or not at all. Compared to participants who were not mimicked, those who were mimicked mirrorwise tended to rate VIRTUO more positively, but those who were mimicked anatomically rated him more negatively. During face-to-face conversation, mirrorwise and anatomical mimicry have opposite social consequences. Results suggest that visuo-spatial similarity between mimicker and mimickee, not similarity in motor system activity, gives rise to the positive social effects of bodily mimicry.
  • Coopmans, C. W., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2020). Dissociating activation and integration of discourse referents: Evidence from ERPs and oscillations. Cortex, 126, 83-106. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2019.12.028.

    Abstract

    A key challenge in understanding stories and conversations is the comprehension of ‘anaphora’, words that refer back to previously mentioned words or concepts (‘antecedents’). In psycholinguistic theories, anaphor comprehension involves the initial activation of the antecedent and its subsequent integration into the unfolding representation of the narrated event. A recent proposal suggests that these processes draw upon the brain’s recognition memory and language networks, respectively, and may be dissociable in patterns of neural oscillatory synchronization (Nieuwland & Martin, 2017). We addressed this proposal in an electroencephalogram (EEG) study with pre-registered data acquisition and analyses, using event-related potentials (ERPs) and neural oscillations. Dutch participants read two-sentence mini stories containing proper names, which were repeated or new (ease of activation) and semantically coherent or incoherent with the preceding discourse (ease of integration). Repeated names elicited lower N400 and Late Positive Component amplitude than new names, and also an increase in theta-band (4-7 Hz) synchronization, which was largest around 240-450 ms after name onset. Discourse-coherent names elicited an increase in gamma-band (60-80 Hz) synchronization compared to discourse-incoherent names. This effect was largest around 690-1000 ms after name onset and exploratory beamformer analysis suggested a left frontal source. We argue that the initial activation and subsequent discourse-level integration of referents can be dissociated with event-related EEG activity, and are associated with respectively theta- and gamma-band activity. These findings further establish the link between memory and language through neural oscillations.

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    materials, data, and analysis scripts
  • Coopmans, C. W., & Schoenmakers, G.-J. (2020). Incremental structure building of preverbal PPs in Dutch. Linguistics in the Netherlands, 37(1), 38-52. doi:10.1075/avt.00036.coo.

    Abstract

    Incremental comprehension of head-final constructions can reveal structural attachment preferences for ambiguous phrases. This study investigates how temporarily ambiguous PPs are processed in Dutch verb-final constructions. In De aannemer heeft op het dakterras bespaard/gewerkt ‘The contractor has on the roof terrace saved/worked’, the PP is locally ambiguous between attachment as argument and as adjunct. This ambiguity is resolved by the sentence-final verb. In a self-paced reading task, we manipulated the argument/adjunct status of the PP, and its position relative to the verb. While we found no reading-time differences between argument and adjunct PPs, we did find that transitive verbs, for which the PP is an argument, were read more slowly than intransitive verbs, for which the PP is an adjunct. We suggest that Dutch parsers have a preference for adjunct attachment of preverbal PPs, and discuss our findings in terms of incremental parsing models that aim to minimize costly reanalysis.
  • Fitz, H., Uhlmann, M., Van den Broek, D., Duarte, R., Hagoort, P., & Petersson, K. M. (2020). Neuronal spike-rate adaptation supports working memory in language processing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(34), 20881-20889. doi:10.1073/pnas.2000222117.

    Abstract

    Language processing involves the ability to store and integrate pieces of information in working memory over short periods of time. According to the dominant view, information is maintained through sustained, elevated neural activity. Other work has argued that short-term synaptic facilitation can serve as a substrate of memory. Here, we propose an account where memory is supported by intrinsic plasticity that downregulates neuronal firing rates. Single neuron responses are dependent on experience and we show through simulations that these adaptive changes in excitability pro- vide memory on timescales ranging from milliseconds to seconds. On this account, spiking activity writes information into coupled dynamic variables that control adaptation and move at slower timescales than the membrane potential. From these variables, information is continuously read back into the active membrane state for processing. This neuronal memory mech- anism does not rely on persistent activity, excitatory feedback, or synap- tic plasticity for storage. Instead, information is maintained in adaptive conductances that reduce firing rates and can be accessed directly with- out cued retrieval. Memory span is systematically related to both the time constant of adaptation and baseline levels of neuronal excitability. Inter- ference effects within memory arise when adaptation is long-lasting. We demonstrate that this mechanism is sensitive to context and serial order which makes it suitable for temporal integration in sequence processing within the language domain. We also show that it enables the binding of linguistic features over time within dynamic memory registers. This work provides a step towards a computational neurobiology of language.
  • Flecken, M., & Van Bergen, G. (2020). Can the English stand the bottle like the Dutch? Effects of relational categories on object perception. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 37(5-6), 271-287. doi:10.1080/02643294.2019.1607272.

    Abstract

    Does language influence how we perceive the world? This study examines how linguistic encoding of relational information by means of verbs implicitly affects visual processing, by measuring perceptual judgements behaviourally, and visual perception and attention in EEG. Verbal systems can vary cross-linguistically: Dutch uses posture verbs to describe inanimate object configurations (the bottle stands/lies on the table). In English, however, such use of posture verbs is rare (the bottle is on the table). Using this test case, we ask (1) whether previously attested language-perception interactions extend to more complex domains, and (2) whether differences in linguistic usage probabilities affect perception. We report three nonverbal experiments in which Dutch and English participants performed a picture-matching task. Prime and target pictures contained object configurations (e.g., a bottle on a table); in the critical condition, prime and target showed a mismatch in object position (standing/lying). In both language groups, we found similar responses, suggesting that probabilistic differences in linguistic encoding of relational information do not affect perception.
  • Fleur, D. S., Flecken, M., Rommers, J., & Nieuwland, M. S. (2020). Definitely saw it coming? The dual nature of the pre-nominal prediction effect. Cognition, 204: 104335. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104335.

    Abstract

    In well-known demonstrations of lexical prediction during language comprehension, pre-nominal articles that mismatch a likely upcoming noun's gender elicit different neural activity than matching articles. However, theories differ on what this pre-nominal prediction effect means and on what is being predicted. Does it reflect mismatch with a predicted article, or ‘merely’ revision of the noun prediction? We contrasted the ‘article prediction mismatch’ hypothesis and the ‘noun prediction revision’ hypothesis in two ERP experiments on Dutch mini-story comprehension, with pre-registered data collection and analyses. We capitalized on the Dutch gender system, which marks gender on definite articles (‘de/het’) but not on indefinite articles (‘een’). If articles themselves are predicted, mismatching gender should have little effect when readers expected an indefinite article without gender marking. Participants read contexts that strongly suggested either a definite or indefinite noun phrase as its best continuation, followed by a definite noun phrase with the expected noun or an unexpected, different gender noun phrase (‘het boek/de roman’, the book/the novel). Experiment 1 (N = 48) showed a pre-nominal prediction effect, but evidence for the article prediction mismatch hypothesis was inconclusive. Informed by exploratory analyses and power analyses, direct replication Experiment 2 (N = 80) yielded evidence for article prediction mismatch at a newly pre-registered occipital region-of-interest. However, at frontal and posterior channels, unexpectedly definite articles also elicited a gender-mismatch effect, and this support for the noun prediction revision hypothesis was further strengthened by exploratory analyses: ERPs elicited by gender-mismatching articles correlated with incurred constraint towards a new noun (next-word entropy), and N400s for initially unpredictable nouns decreased when articles made them more predictable. By demonstrating its dual nature, our results reconcile two prevalent explanations of the pre-nominal prediction effect.
  • Fox, N. P., Leonard, M., Sjerps, M. J., & Chang, E. F. (2020). Transformation of a temporal speech cue to a spatial neural code in human auditory cortex. eLife, 9: e53051. doi:10.7554/eLife.53051.

    Abstract

    In speech, listeners extract continuously-varying spectrotemporal cues from the acoustic signal to perceive discrete phonetic categories. Spectral cues are spatially encoded in the amplitude of responses in phonetically-tuned neural populations in auditory cortex. It remains unknown whether similar neurophysiological mechanisms encode temporal cues like voice-onset time (VOT), which distinguishes sounds like /b/ and/p/. We used direct brain recordings in humans to investigate the neural encoding of temporal speech cues with a VOT continuum from /ba/ to /pa/. We found that distinct neural populations respond preferentially to VOTs from one phonetic category, and are also sensitive to sub-phonetic VOT differences within a population’s preferred category. In a simple neural network model, simulated populations tuned to detect either temporal gaps or coincidences between spectral cues captured encoding patterns observed in real neural data. These results demonstrate that a spatial/amplitude neural code underlies the cortical representation of both spectral and temporal speech cues.

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    Data and code
  • Gerakaki, S. (2020). The moment in between: Planning speech while listening. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Gilbers, S., Hoeksema, N., De Bot, K., & Lowie, W. (2020). Regional variation in West and East Coast African-American English prosody and rap flows. Language and Speech, 63(4), 713-745. doi:10.1177/0023830919881479.

    Abstract

    Regional variation in African-American English (AAE) is especially salient to its speakers involved with hip-hop culture, as hip-hop assigns great importance to regional identity and regional accents are a key means of expressing regional identity. However, little is known about AAE regional variation regarding prosodic rhythm and melody. In hip-hop music, regional variation can also be observed, with different regions’ rap performances being characterized by distinct “flows” (i.e., rhythmic and melodic delivery), an observation which has not been quantitatively investigated yet. This study concerns regional variation in AAE speech and rap, specifically regarding the United States’ East and West Coasts. It investigates how East Coast and West Coast AAE prosody are distinct, how East Coast and West Coast rap flows differ, and whether the two domains follow a similar pattern: more rhythmic and melodic variation on the West Coast compared to the East Coast for both speech and rap. To this end, free speech and rap recordings of 16 prominent African-American members of the East Coast and West Coast hip-hop communities were phonetically analyzed regarding rhythm (e.g., syllable isochrony and musical timing) and melody (i.e., pitch fluctuation) using a combination of existing and novel methodological approaches. The results mostly confirm the hypotheses that East Coast AAE speech and rap are less rhythmically diverse and more monotone than West Coast AAE speech and rap, respectively. They also show that regional variation in AAE prosody and rap flows pattern in similar ways, suggesting a connection between rhythm and melody in language and music.
  • Hagoort, P. (2020). Taal. In O. Van den Heuvel, Y. Van der Werf, B. Schmand, & B. Sabbe (Eds.), Leerboek neurowetenschappen voor de klinische psychiatrie (pp. 234-239). Amsterdam: Boom Uitgevers.
  • Heidlmayr, K., Kihlstedt, M., & Isel, F. (2020). A review on the electroencephalography markers of Stroop executive control processes. Brain and Cognition, 146: 105637. doi:10.1016/j.bandc.2020.105637.

    Abstract

    The present article on executive control addresses the issue of the locus of the Stroop effect by examining neurophysiological components marking conflict monitoring, interference suppression, and conflict resolution. Our goal was to provide an overview of a series of determining neurophysiological findings including neural source reconstruction data on distinct executive control processes and sub-processes involved in the Stroop task. Consistently, a fronto-central N2 component is found to reflect conflict monitoring processes, with its main neural generator being the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). Then, for cognitive control tasks that involve a linguistic component like the Stroop task, the N2 is followed by a centro-posterior N400 and subsequently a late sustained potential (LSP). The N400 is mainly generated by the ACC and the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and is thought to reflect interference suppression, whereas the LSP plausibly reflects conflict resolution processes. The present overview shows that ERP constitute a reliable methodological tool for tracing with precision the time course of different executive processes and sub-processes involved in experimental tasks involving a cognitive conflict. Future research should shed light on the fine-grained mechanisms of control respectively involved in linguistic and non-linguistic tasks.
  • Heidlmayr, K., Weber, K., Takashima, A., & Hagoort, P. (2020). No title, no theme: The joined neural space between speakers and listeners during production and comprehension of multi-sentence discourse. Cortex, 130, 111-126. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.04.035.

    Abstract

    Speakers and listeners usually interact in larger discourses than single words or even single sentences. The goal of the present study was to identify the neural bases reflecting how the mental representation of the situation denoted in a multi-sentence discourse (situation model) is constructed and shared between speakers and listeners. An fMRI study using a variant of the ambiguous text paradigm was designed. Speakers (n=15) produced ambiguous texts in the scanner and listeners (n=27) subsequently listened to these texts in different states of ambiguity: preceded by a highly informative, intermediately informative or no title at all. Conventional BOLD activation analyses in listeners, as well as inter-subject correlation analyses between the speakers’ and the listeners’ hemodynamic time courses were performed. Critically, only the processing of disambiguated, coherent discourse with an intelligible situation model representation involved (shared) activation in bilateral lateral parietal and medial prefrontal regions. This shared spatiotemporal pattern of brain activation between the speaker and the listener suggests that the process of memory retrieval in medial prefrontal regions and the binding of retrieved information in the lateral parietal cortex constitutes a core mechanism underlying the communication of complex conceptual representations.

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  • Heilbron, M., Richter, D., Ekman, M., Hagoort, P., & De Lange, F. P. (2020). Word contexts enhance the neural representation of individual letters in early visual cortex. Nature Communications, 11: 321. doi:10.1038/s41467-019-13996-4.

    Abstract

    Visual context facilitates perception, but how this is neurally implemented remains unclear. One example of contextual facilitation is found in reading, where letters are more easily identified when embedded in a word. Bottom-up models explain this word advantage as a post-perceptual decision bias, while top-down models propose that word contexts enhance perception itself. Here, we arbitrate between these accounts by presenting words and nonwords and probing the representational fidelity of individual letters using functional magnetic resonance imaging. In line with top-down models, we find that word contexts enhance letter representations in early visual cortex. Moreover, we observe increased coupling between letter information in visual cortex and brain activity in key areas of the reading network, suggesting these areas may be the source of the enhancement. Our results provide evidence for top-down representational enhancement in word recognition, demonstrating that word contexts can modulate perceptual processing already at the earliest visual regions.

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  • Hoeksema, N., Wiesmann, M., Kiliaan, A., Hagoort, P., & Vernes, S. C. (2020). Bats and the comparative neurobiology of vocal learning. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 165-167). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Hoeksema, N., Villanueva, S., Mengede, J., Salazar Casals, A., Rubio-García, A., Curcic-Blake, B., Vernes, S. C., & Ravignani, A. (2020). Neuroanatomy of the grey seal brain: Bringing pinnipeds into the neurobiological study of vocal learning. In A. Ravignani, C. Barbieri, M. Flaherty, Y. Jadoul, E. Lattenkamp, H. Little, M. Martins, K. Mudd, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference (Evolang13) (pp. 162-164). Nijmegen: The Evolution of Language Conferences.
  • Huizeling, E., Wang, H., Holland, C., & Kessler, K. (2020). Age-related changes in attentional refocusing during simulated driving. Brain sciences, 10(8): 530. doi:10.3390/brainsci10080530.

    Abstract

    We recently reported that refocusing attention between temporal and spatial tasks becomes more difficult with increasing age, which could impair daily activities such as driving (Callaghan et al., 2017). Here, we investigated the extent to which difficulties in refocusing attention extend to naturalistic settings such as simulated driving. A total of 118 participants in five age groups (18–30; 40–49; 50–59; 60–69; 70–91 years) were compared during continuous simulated driving, where they repeatedly switched from braking due to traffic ahead (a spatially focal yet temporally complex task) to reading a motorway road sign (a spatially more distributed task). Sequential-Task (switching) performance was compared to Single-Task performance (road sign only) to calculate age-related switch-costs. Electroencephalography was recorded in 34 participants (17 in the 18–30 and 17 in the 60+ years groups) to explore age-related changes in the neural oscillatory signatures of refocusing attention while driving. We indeed observed age-related impairments in attentional refocusing, evidenced by increased switch-costs in response times and by deficient modulation of theta and alpha frequencies. Our findings highlight virtual reality (VR) and Neuro-VR as important methodologies for future psychological and gerontological research.

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  • Knudsen, B., Creemers, A., & Meyer, A. S. (2020). Forgotten little words: How backchannels and particles may facilitate speech planning in conversation? Frontiers in Psychology, 11: 593671. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2020.593671.

    Abstract

    In everyday conversation, turns often follow each other immediately or overlap in time. It has been proposed that speakers achieve this tight temporal coordination between their turns by engaging in linguistic dual-tasking, i.e., by beginning to plan their utterance during the preceding turn. This raises the question of how speakers manage to co-ordinate speech planning and listening with each other. Experimental work addressing this issue has mostly concerned the capacity demands and interference arising when speakers retrieve some content words while listening to others. However, many contributions to conversations are not content words, but backchannels, such as “hm”. Backchannels do not provide much conceptual content and are therefore easy to plan and respond to. To estimate how much they might facilitate speech planning in conversation, we determined their frequency in a Dutch and a German corpus of conversational speech. We found that 19% of the contributions in the Dutch corpus, and 16% of contributions in the German corpus were backchannels. In addition, many turns began with fillers or particles, most often translation equivalents of “yes” or “no,” which are likewise easy to plan.We proposed that to generate comprehensive models of using language in conversation psycholinguists should study not only the generation and processing of content words, as is commonly done, but also consider backchannels, fillers, and particles.
  • König, C. J., Langer, M., Fell, C. B., Pathak, R. D., Bajwa, N. u. H., Derous, E., Geißler, S. M., Hirose, S., Hülsheger, U., Javakhishvili, N., Junges, N., Knudsen, B., Lee, M. S. W., Mariani, M. G., Nag, G. C., Petrescu, C., Robie, C., Rohorua, H., Sammel, L. D., Schichtel, D. and 4 moreKönig, C. J., Langer, M., Fell, C. B., Pathak, R. D., Bajwa, N. u. H., Derous, E., Geißler, S. M., Hirose, S., Hülsheger, U., Javakhishvili, N., Junges, N., Knudsen, B., Lee, M. S. W., Mariani, M. G., Nag, G. C., Petrescu, C., Robie, C., Rohorua, H., Sammel, L. D., Schichtel, D., Titov, S., Todadze, K., von Lautz, A. H., & Ziem, M. (2020). Economic predictors of differences in interview faking between countries: Economic inequality matters, not the state of economy. Applied Psychology. doi:10.1111/apps.12278.

    Abstract

    Many companies recruit employees from different parts of the globe, and faking behavior by potential employees is a ubiquitous phenomenon. It seems that applicants from some countries are more prone to faking compared to others, but the reasons for these differences are largely unexplored. This study relates country-level economic variables to faking behavior in hiring processes. In a cross-national study across 20 countries, participants (N = 3839) reported their faking behavior in their last job interview. This study used the random response technique (RRT) to ensure participants anonymity and to foster honest answers regarding faking behavior. Results indicate that general economic indicators (gross domestic product per capita [GDP] and unemployment rate) show negligible correlations with faking across the countries, whereas economic inequality is positively related to the extent of applicant faking to a substantial extent. These findings imply that people are sensitive to inequality within countries and that inequality relates to faking, because inequality might actuate other psychological processes (e.g., envy) which in turn increase the probability for unethical behavior in many forms.
  • Kösem, A., Bosker, H. R., Jensen, O., Hagoort, P., & Riecke, L. (2020). Biasing the perception of spoken words with transcranial alternating current stimulation. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(8), 1428-1437. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01579.

    Abstract

    Recent neuroimaging evidence suggests that the frequency of entrained oscillations in auditory cortices influences the perceived duration of speech segments, impacting word perception (Kösem et al. 2018). We further tested the causal influence of neural entrainment frequency during speech processing, by manipulating entrainment with continuous transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) at distinct oscillatory frequencies (3 Hz and 5.5 Hz) above the auditory cortices. Dutch participants listened to speech and were asked to report their percept of a target Dutch word, which contained a vowel with an ambiguous duration. Target words were presented either in isolation (first experiment) or at the end of spoken sentences (second experiment). We predicted that the tACS frequency would influence neural entrainment and therewith how speech is perceptually sampled, leading to a perceptual over- or underestimation of the vowel’s duration. Whereas results from Experiment 1 did not confirm this prediction, results from experiment 2 suggested a small effect of tACS frequency on target word perception: Faster tACS lead to more long-vowel word percepts, in line with the previous neuroimaging findings. Importantly, the difference in word perception induced by the different tACS frequencies was significantly larger in experiment 1 vs. experiment 2, suggesting that the impact of tACS is dependent on the sensory context. tACS may have a stronger effect on spoken word perception when the words are presented in continuous speech as compared to when they are isolated, potentially because prior (stimulus-induced) entrainment of brain oscillations might be a prerequisite for tACS to be effective.
  • Levshina, N. (2020). Efficient trade-offs as explanations in functional linguistics: some problems and an alternative proposal. Revista da Abralin, 19(3), 50-78. doi:10.25189/rabralin.v19i3.1728.

    Abstract

    The notion of efficient trade-offs is frequently used in functional linguis-tics in order to explain language use and structure. In this paper I argue that this notion is more confusing than enlightening. Not every negative correlation between parameters represents a real trade-off. Moreover, trade-offs are usually reported between pairs of variables, without taking into account the role of other factors. These and other theoretical issues are illustrated in a case study of linguistic cues used in expressing “who did what to whom”: case marking, rigid word order and medial verb posi-tion. The data are taken from the Universal Dependencies corpora in 30 languages and annotated corpora of online news from the Leipzig Corpora collection. We find that not all cues are correlated negatively, which ques-tions the assumption of language as a zero-sum game. Moreover, the cor-relations between pairs of variables change when we incorporate the third variable. Finally, the relationships between the variables are not always bi-directional. The study also presents a causal model, which can serve as a more appropriate alternative to trade-offs.
  • Levshina, N. (2020). How tight is your language? A semantic typology based on Mutual Information. In K. Evang, L. Kallmeyer, R. Ehren, S. Petitjean, E. Seyffarth, & D. Seddah (Eds.), Proceedings of the 19th International Workshop on Treebanks and Linguistic Theories (pp. 70-78). Düsseldorf, Germany: Association for Computational Linguistics. doi:10.18653/v1/2020.tlt-1.7.

    Abstract

    Languages differ in the degree of semantic flexibility of their syntactic roles. For example, Eng- lish and Indonesian are considered more flexible with regard to the semantics of subjects, whereas German and Japanese are less flexible. In Hawkins’ classification, more flexible lan- guages are said to have a loose fit, and less flexible ones are those that have a tight fit. This classification has been based on manual inspection of example sentences. The present paper proposes a new, quantitative approach to deriving the measures of looseness and tightness from corpora. We use corpora of online news from the Leipzig Corpora Collection in thirty typolog- ically and genealogically diverse languages and parse them syntactically with the help of the Universal Dependencies annotation software. Next, we compute Mutual Information scores for each language using the matrices of lexical lemmas and four syntactic dependencies (intransi- tive subjects, transitive subject, objects and obliques). The new approach allows us not only to reproduce the results of previous investigations, but also to extend the typology to new lan- guages. We also demonstrate that verb-final languages tend to have a tighter relationship be- tween lexemes and syntactic roles, which helps language users to recognize thematic roles early during comprehension.

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    full text via ACL website
  • Liao, Y., Flecken, M., Dijkstra, K., & Zwaan, R. A. (2020). Going places in Dutch and mandarin Chinese: Conceptualising the path of motion cross-linguistically. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(4), 498-520. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1676455.

    Abstract

    We study to what extent linguistic differences in grammatical aspect systems and verb lexicalisation patterns of Dutch and mandarin Chinese affect how speakers conceptualise the path of motion in motion events, using description and memory tasks. We hypothesised that speakers of the two languages would show different preferences towards the selection of endpoint-, trajectory- or location-information in Endpoint-oriented (not reached) events, whilst showing a similar bias towards encoding endpoints in Endpoint-reached events. Our findings show that (1) groups did not differ in endpoint encoding and memory for both event types; (2) Dutch speakers conceptualised Endpoint-oriented motion focusing on the trajectory, whereas Chinese speakers focused on the location of the moving entity. In addition, we report detailed linguistic patterns of how grammatical aspect, verb semantics and adjuncts containing path-information are combined in the two languages. Results are discussed in relation to typologies of motion expression and event cognition theory.

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    Supplemental material
  • Mak, M., De Vries, C., & Willems, R. M. (2020). The influence of mental imagery instructions and personality characteristics on reading experiences. Collabra: Psychology, 6(1): 43. doi:10.1525/collabra.281.

    Abstract

    It is well established that readers form mental images when reading a narrative. However, the consequences of mental imagery (i.e. the influence of mental imagery on the way people experience stories) are still unclear. Here we manipulated the amount of mental imagery that participants engaged in while reading short literary stories in two experiments. Participants received pre-reading instructions aimed at encouraging or discouraging mental imagery. After reading, participants answered questions about their reading experiences. We also measured individual trait differences that are relevant for literary reading experiences. The results from the first experiment suggests an important role of mental imagery in determining reading experiences. However, the results from the second experiment show that mental imagery is only a weak predictor of reading experiences compared to individual (trait) differences in how imaginative participants were. Moreover, the influence of mental imagery instructions did not extend to reading experiences unrelated to mental imagery. The implications of these results for the relationship between mental imagery and reading experiences are discussed.
  • Misersky, J., & Redl, T. (2020). A psycholinguistic view on stereotypical and grammatical gender: The effects and remedies. In C. D. J. Bulten, C. F. Perquin-Deelen, M. H. Sinninghe Damsté, & K. J. Bakker (Eds.), Diversiteit. Een multidisciplinaire terreinverkenning (pp. 237-255). Deventer: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Mongelli, V. (2020). The role of neural feedback in language unification: How awareness affects combinatorial processing. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Montero-Melis, G., & Jaeger, T. F. (2020). Changing expectations mediate adaptation in L2 production. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(3), 602-617. doi:10.1017/S1366728919000506.

    Abstract

    Native language (L1) processing draws on implicit expectations. An open question is whether non-native learners of a second language (L2) similarly draw on expectations, and whether these expectations are based on learners’ L1 or L2 knowledge. We approach this question by studying inverse preference effects on lexical encoding. L1 and L2 speakers of Spanish described motion events, while they were either primed to express path, manner, or neither. In line with other work, we find that L1 speakers adapted more strongly after primes that are unexpected in their L1. For L2 speakers, adaptation depended on their L2 proficiency: The least proficient speakers exhibited the inverse preference effect on adaptation based on what was unexpected in their L1; but the more proficient speakers were, the more they exhibited inverse preference effects based on what was unexpected in the L2. We discuss implications for L1 transfer and L2 acquisition.
  • Montero-Melis, G., Isaksson, P., Van Paridon, J., & Ostarek, M. (2020). Does using a foreign language reduce mental imagery? Cognition, 196: 104134. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104134.

    Abstract

    In a recent article, Hayakawa and Keysar (2018) propose that mental imagery is less vivid when evoked in a foreign than in a native language. The authors argue that reduced mental imagery could even account for moral foreign language effects, whereby moral choices become more utilitarian when made in a foreign language. Here we demonstrate that Hayakawa and Keysar's (2018) key results are better explained by reduced language comprehension in a foreign language than by less vivid imagery. We argue that the paradigm used in Hayakawa and Keysar (2018) does not provide a satisfactory test of reduced imagery and we discuss an alternative paradigm based on recent experimental developments.

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    Supplementary data and scripts
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Arkhipova, Y., & Rodríguez-Gómez, P. (2020). Anticipating words during spoken discourse comprehension: A large-scale, pre-registered replication study using brain potentials. Cortex, 133, 1-36. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2020.09.007.

    Abstract

    Numerous studies report brain potential evidence for the anticipation of specific words during language comprehension. In the most convincing demonstrations, highly predictable nouns exert an influence on processing even before they appear to a reader or listener, as indicated by the brain's neural response to a prenominal adjective or article when it mismatches the expectations about the upcoming noun. However, recent studies suggest that some well-known demonstrations of prediction may be hard to replicate. This could signal the use of data-contingent analysis, but might also mean that readers and listeners do not always use prediction-relevant information in the way that psycholinguistic theories typically suggest. To shed light on this issue, we performed a close replication of one of the best-cited ERP studies on word anticipation (Van Berkum, Brown, Zwitserlood, Kooijman & Hagoort, 2005; Experiment 1), in which participants listened to Dutch spoken mini-stories. In the original study, the marking of grammatical gender on pre-nominal adjectives (‘groot/grote’) elicited an early positivity when mismatching the gender of an unseen, highly predictable noun, compared to matching gender. The current pre-registered study involved that same manipulation, but used a novel set of materials twice the size of the original set, an increased sample size (N = 187), and Bayesian mixed-effects model analyses that better accounted for known sources of variance than the original. In our study, mismatching gender elicited more negative voltage than matching gender at posterior electrodes. However, this N400-like effect was small in size and lacked support from Bayes Factors. In contrast, we successfully replicated the original's noun effects. While our results yielded some support for prediction, they do not support the Van Berkum et al. effect and highlight the risks associated with commonly employed data-contingent analyses and small sample sizes. Our results also raise the question whether Dutch listeners reliably or consistently use adjectival inflection information to inform their noun predictions.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., & Kazanina, N. (2020). The neural basis of linguistic prediction: Introduction to the special issue. Neuropsychologia, 146: 107532. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2020.107532.
  • Nieuwland, M. S., Barr, D. J., Bartolozzi, F., Busch-Moreno, S., Darley, E., Donaldson, D. I., Ferguson, H. J., Fu, X., Heyselaar, E., Huettig, F., Husband, E. M., Ito, A., Kazanina, N., Kogan, V., Kohút, Z., Kulakova, E., Mézière, D., Politzer-Ahles, S., Rousselet, G., Rueschemeyer, S.-A. and 3 moreNieuwland, M. S., Barr, D. J., Bartolozzi, F., Busch-Moreno, S., Darley, E., Donaldson, D. I., Ferguson, H. J., Fu, X., Heyselaar, E., Huettig, F., Husband, E. M., Ito, A., Kazanina, N., Kogan, V., Kohút, Z., Kulakova, E., Mézière, D., Politzer-Ahles, S., Rousselet, G., Rueschemeyer, S.-A., Segaert, K., Tuomainen, J., & Von Grebmer Zu Wolfsthurn, S. (2020). Dissociable effects of prediction and integration during language comprehension: Evidence from a large-scale study using brain potentials. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 375: 20180522. doi:10.1098/rstb.2018.0522.

    Abstract

    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 spatiotemporally fine-grained mixed-effects multiple regression analysis revealed overlapping effects of predictability and plausibility on the N400, albeit with distinct spatiotemporal profiles. Our results challenge the view that the predictability-dependent N400 reflects the effects of either prediction or integration, and suggest that semantic facilitation of predictable words arises from a cascade of processes that activate and integrate word meaning with context into a sentence-level meaning.
  • Ortega, G., Ozyurek, A., & Peeters, D. (2020). Iconic gestures serve as manual cognates in hearing second language learners of a sign language: An ERP study. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(3), 403-415. doi:10.1037/xlm0000729.

    Abstract

    When learning a second spoken language, cognates, words overlapping in form and meaning with one’s native language, help breaking into the language one wishes to acquire. But what happens when the to-be-acquired second language is a sign language? We tested whether hearing nonsigners rely on their gestural repertoire at first exposure to a sign language. Participants saw iconic signs with high and low overlap with the form of iconic gestures while electrophysiological brain activity was recorded. Upon first exposure, signs with low overlap with gestures elicited enhanced positive amplitude in the P3a component compared to signs with high overlap. This effect disappeared after a training session. We conclude that nonsigners generate expectations about the form of iconic signs never seen before based on their implicit knowledge of gestures, even without having to produce them. Learners thus draw from any available semiotic resources when acquiring a second language, and not only from their linguistic experience
  • Peeters, D. (2020). Bilingual switching between languages and listeners: Insights from immersive virtual reality. Cognition, 195: 104107. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2019.104107.

    Abstract

    Perhaps the main advantage of being bilingual is the capacity to communicate with interlocutors that have different language backgrounds. In the life of a bilingual, switching interlocutors hence sometimes involves switching languages. We know that the capacity to switch from one language to another is supported by control mechanisms, such as task-set reconfiguration. This study investigates whether similar neurophysiological mechanisms support bilingual switching between different listeners, within and across languages. A group of 48 unbalanced Dutch-English bilinguals named pictures for two monolingual Dutch and two monolingual English life-size virtual listeners in an immersive virtual reality environment. In terms of reaction times, switching languages came at a cost over and above the significant cost of switching from one listener to another. Analysis of event-related potentials showed similar electrophysiological correlates for switching listeners and switching languages. However, it was found that having to switch listeners and languages at the same time delays the onset of lexical processes more than a switch between listeners within the same language. Findings are interpreted in light of the interplay between proactive (sustained inhibition) and reactive (task-set reconfiguration) control in bilingual speech production. It is argued that a possible bilingual advantage in executive control may not be due to the process of switching per se. This study paves the way for the study of bilingual language switching in ecologically valid, naturalistic, experimental settings.

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  • Preisig, B., Sjerps, M. J., Hervais-Adelman, A., Kösem, A., Hagoort, P., & Riecke, L. (2020). Bilateral gamma/delta transcranial alternating current stimulation affects interhemispheric speech sound integration. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(7), 1242-1250. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01498.

    Abstract

    Perceiving speech requires the integration of different speech cues, that is, formants. When the speech signal is split so that different cues are presented to the right and left ear (dichotic listening), comprehension requires the integration of binaural information. Based on prior electrophysiological evidence, we hypothesized that the integration of dichotically presented speech cues is enabled by interhemispheric phase synchronization between primary and secondary auditory cortex in the gamma frequency band. We tested this hypothesis by applying transcranial alternating current stimulation (TACS) bilaterally above the superior temporal lobe to induce or disrupt interhemispheric gamma-phase coupling. In contrast to initial predictions, we found that gamma TACS applied in-phase above the two hemispheres (interhemispheric lag 0°) perturbs interhemispheric integration of speech cues, possibly because the applied stimulation perturbs an inherent phase lag between the left and right auditory cortex. We also observed this disruptive effect when applying antiphasic delta TACS (interhemispheric lag 180°). We conclude that interhemispheric phase coupling plays a functional role in interhemispheric speech integration. The direction of this effect may depend on the stimulation frequency.
  • Rasenberg, M., Rommers, J., & Van Bergen, G. (2020). Anticipating predictability: An ERP investigation of expectation-managing discourse markers in dialogue comprehension. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 35(1), 1-16. doi:10.1080/23273798.2019.1624789.

    Abstract

    n two ERP experiments, we investigated how the Dutch discourse markers eigenlijk “actually”, signalling expectation disconfirmation, and inderdaad “indeed”, signalling expectation confirmation, affect incremental dialogue comprehension. We investigated their effects on the processing of subsequent (un)predictable words, and on the quality of word representations in memory. Participants read dialogues with (un)predictable endings that followed a discourse marker (eigenlijk in Experiment 1, inderdaad in Experiment 2) or a control adverb. We found no strong evidence that discourse markers modulated online predictability effects elicited by subsequently read words. However, words following eigenlijk elicited an enhanced posterior post-N400 positivity compared with words following an adverb regardless of their predictability, potentially reflecting increased processing costs associated with pragmatically driven discourse updating. No effects of inderdaad were found on online processing, but inderdaad seemed to influence memory for (un)predictable dialogue endings. These findings nuance our understanding of how pragmatic markers affect incremental language comprehension.

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    plcp_a_1624789_sm6686.docx
  • Sharpe, V., Weber, K., & Kuperberg, G. R. (2020). Impairments in probabilistic prediction and Bayesian learning can explain reduced neural semantic priming in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 46(6), 1558-1566. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbaa069.

    Abstract

    It has been proposed that abnormalities in probabilistic prediction and dynamic belief updating explain the multiple features of schizophrenia. Here, we used electroencephalography (EEG) to ask whether these abnormalities can account for the well-established reduction in semantic priming observed in schizophrenia under nonautomatic conditions. We isolated predictive contributions to the neural semantic priming effect by manipulating the prime’s predictive validity and minimizing retroactive semantic matching mechanisms. We additionally examined the link between prediction and learning using a Bayesian model that probed dynamic belief updating as participants adapted to the increase in predictive validity. We found that patients were less likely than healthy controls to use the prime to predictively facilitate semantic processing on the target, resulting in a reduced N400 effect. Moreover, the trial-by-trial output of our Bayesian computational model explained between-group differences in trial-by-trial N400 amplitudes as participants transitioned from conditions of lower to higher predictive validity. These findings suggest that, compared with healthy controls, people with schizophrenia are less able to mobilize predictive mechanisms to facilitate processing at the earliest stages of accessing the meanings of incoming words. This deficit may be linked to a failure to adapt to changes in the broader environment. This reciprocal relationship between impairments in probabilistic prediction and Bayesian learning/adaptation may drive a vicious cycle that maintains cognitive disturbances in schizophrenia.

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  • Snijders, T. M., Benders, T., & Fikkert, P. (2020). Infants segment words from songs - an EEG study. Brain Sciences, 10( 1): 39. doi:10.3390/brainsci10010039.

    Abstract

    Children’s songs are omnipresent and highly attractive stimuli in infants’ input. Previous work suggests that infants process linguistic–phonetic information from simplified sung melodies. The present study investigated whether infants learn words from ecologically valid children’s songs. Testing 40 Dutch-learning 10-month-olds in a familiarization-then-test electroencephalography (EEG) paradigm, this study asked whether infants can segment repeated target words embedded in songs during familiarization and subsequently recognize those words in continuous speech in the test phase. To replicate previous speech work and compare segmentation across modalities, infants participated in both song and speech sessions. Results showed a positive event-related potential (ERP) familiarity effect to the final compared to the first target occurrences during both song and speech familiarization. No evidence was found for word recognition in the test phase following either song or speech. Comparisons across the stimuli of the present and a comparable previous study suggested that acoustic prominence and speech rate may have contributed to the polarity of the ERP familiarity effect and its absence in the test phase. Overall, the present study provides evidence that 10-month-old infants can segment words embedded in songs, and it raises questions about the acoustic and other factors that enable or hinder infant word segmentation from songs and speech.
  • Takashima, A., Konopka, A. E., Meyer, A. S., Hagoort, P., & Weber, K. (2020). Speaking in the brain: The interaction between words and syntax in sentence production. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 32(8), 1466-1483. doi:10.1162/jocn_a_01563.

    Abstract

    This neuroimaging study investigated the neural infrastructure of sentence-level language production. We compared brain activation patterns, as measured with BOLD-fMRI, during production of sentences that differed in verb argument structures (intransitives, transitives, ditransitives) and the lexical status of the verb (known verbs or pseudoverbs). The experiment consisted of 30 mini-blocks of six sentences each. Each mini-block started with an example for the type of sentence to be produced in that block. On each trial in the mini-blocks, participants were first given the (pseudo-)verb followed by three geometric shapes to serve as verb arguments in the sentences. Production of sentences with known verbs yielded greater activation compared to sentences with pseudoverbs in the core language network of the left inferior frontal gyrus, the left posterior middle temporalgyrus, and a more posterior middle temporal region extending into the angular gyrus, analogous to effects observed in language comprehension. Increasing the number of verb arguments led to greater activation in an overlapping left posterior middle temporal gyrus/angular gyrus area, particularly for known verbs, as well as in the bilateral precuneus. Thus, producing sentences with more complex structures using existing verbs leads to increased activation in the language network, suggesting some reliance on memory retrieval of stored lexical–syntactic information during sentence production. This study thus provides evidence from sentence-level language production in line with functional models of the language network that have so far been mainly based on single-word production, comprehension, and language processing in aphasia.
  • Tan, Y., & Hagoort, P. (2020). Catecholaminergic modulation of semantic processing in sentence comprehension. Cerebral Cortex, 30(12), 6426-6443. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhaa204.

    Abstract

    Catecholamine (CA) function has been widely implicated in cognitive functions that are tied to the prefrontal cortex and striatal areas. The present study investigated the effects of methylphenidate, which is a CA agonist, on the electroencephalogram (EEG) response related to semantic processing using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, crossover, within-subject design. Forty-eight healthy participants read semantically congruent or incongruent sentences after receiving 20-mg methylphenidate or a placebo while their brain activity was monitored with EEG. To probe whether the catecholaminergic modulation is task-dependent, in one condition participants had to focus on comprehending the sentences, while in the other condition, they only had to attend to the font size of the sentence. The results demonstrate that methylphenidate has a task-dependent effect on semantic processing. Compared to placebo, when semantic processing was task-irrelevant, methylphenidate enhanced the detection of semantic incongruence as indexed by a larger N400 amplitude in the incongruent sentences; when semantic processing was task-relevant, methylphenidate induced a larger N400 amplitude in the semantically congruent condition, which was followed by a larger late positive complex effect. These results suggest that CA-related neurotransmitters influence language processing, possibly through the projections between the prefrontal cortex and the striatum, which contain many CA receptors.
  • Ter Bekke, M., Drijvers, L., & Holler, J. (2020). The predictive potential of hand gestures during conversation: An investigation of the timing of gestures in relation to speech. In Proceedings of the 7th GESPIN - Gesture and Speech in Interaction Conference. Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

    Abstract

    In face-to-face conversation, recipients might use the bodily movements of the speaker (e.g. gestures) to facilitate language processing. It has been suggested that one way through which this facilitation may happen is prediction. However, for this to be possible, gestures would need to precede speech, and it is unclear whether this is true during natural conversation. In a corpus of Dutch conversations, we annotated hand gestures that represent semantic information and occurred during questions, and the word(s) which corresponded most closely to the gesturally depicted meaning. Thus, we tested whether representational gestures temporally precede their lexical affiliates. Further, to see whether preceding gestures may indeed facilitate language processing, we asked whether the gesture-speech asynchrony predicts the response time to the question the gesture is part of. Gestures and their strokes (most meaningful movement component) indeed preceded the corresponding lexical information, thus demonstrating their predictive potential. However, while questions with gestures got faster responses than questions without, there was no evidence that questions with larger gesture-speech asynchronies get faster responses. These results suggest that gestures indeed have the potential to facilitate predictive language processing, but further analyses on larger datasets are needed to test for links between asynchrony and processing advantages.
  • Terporten, R. (2020). The power of context: How linguistic contextual information shapes brain dynamics during sentence processing. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Uhlmann, M. (2020). Neurobiological models of sentence processing. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Vanlangendonck, F., Peeters, D., Rüschemeyer, S.-A., & Dijkstra, T. (2020). Mixing the stimulus list in bilingual lexical decision turns cognate facilitation effects into mirrored inhibition effects. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 23(4), 836-844. doi:10.1017/S1366728919000531.

    Abstract

    To test the BIA+ and Multilink models’ accounts of how bilinguals process words with different degrees of cross-linguistic orthographic and semantic overlap, we conducted two experiments manipulating stimulus list composition. Dutch-English late bilinguals performed two English lexical decision tasks including the same set of cognates, interlingual homographs, English control words, and pseudowords. In one task, half of the pseudowords were replaced with Dutch words, requiring a ‘no’ response. This change from pure to mixed language list context was found to turn cognate facilitation effects into inhibition. Relative to control words, larger effects were found for cognate pairs with an increasing cross-linguistic form overlap. Identical cognates produced considerably larger effects than non-identical cognates, supporting their special status in the bilingual lexicon. Response patterns for different item types are accounted for in terms of the items’ lexical representation and their binding to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses in pure vs mixed lexical decision.

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    S1366728919000531sup001.pdf
  • Willems, R. M., Nastase, S. A., & Milivojevic, B. (2020). Narratives for Neuroscience. Trends in Neurosciences, 43(5), 271-273. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2020.03.003.

    Abstract

    People organize and convey their thoughts according to narratives. However, neuroscientists are often reluctant to incorporate narrative stimuli into their experiments. We argue that narratives deserve wider adoption in human neuroscience because they tap into the brain’s native machinery for representing the world and provide rich variability for testing hypotheses.
  • Armeni, K., Willems, R. M., Van den Bosch, A., & Schoffelen, J.-M. (2019). Frequency-specific brain dynamics related to prediction during language comprehension. NeuroImage, 198, 283-295. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.04.083.

    Abstract

    The brain's remarkable capacity to process spoken language virtually in real time requires fast and efficient information processing machinery. In this study, we investigated how frequency-specific brain dynamics relate to models of probabilistic language prediction during auditory narrative comprehension. We recorded MEG activity while participants were listening to auditory stories in Dutch. Using trigram statistical language models, we estimated for every word in a story its conditional probability of occurrence. On the basis of word probabilities, we computed how unexpected the current word is given its context (word perplexity) and how (un)predictable the current linguistic context is (word entropy). We then evaluated whether source-reconstructed MEG oscillations at different frequency bands are modulated as a function of these language processing metrics. We show that theta-band source dynamics are increased in high relative to low entropy states, likely reflecting lexical computations. Beta-band dynamics are increased in situations of low word entropy and perplexity possibly reflecting maintenance of ongoing cognitive context. These findings lend support to the idea that the brain engages in the active generation and evaluation of predicted language based on the statistical properties of the input signal.

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  • Basnakova, J. (2019). Beyond the language given: The neurobiological infrastructure for pragmatic inferencing. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Bocanegra, B. R., Poletiek, F. H., Ftitache, B., & Clark, A. (2019). Intelligent problem-solvers externalize cognitive operations. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 136-142. doi:10.1038/s41562-018-0509-y.

    Abstract

    Humans are nature’s most intelligent and prolific users of external props and aids (such as written texts, slide-rules and software packages). Here we introduce a method for investigating how people make active use of their task environment during problem-solving and apply this approach to the non-verbal Raven Advanced Progressive Matrices test for fluid intelligence. We designed a click-and-drag version of the Raven test in which participants could create different external spatial configurations while solving the puzzles. In our first study, we observed that the click-and-drag test was better than the conventional static test at predicting academic achievement of university students. This pattern of results was partially replicated in a novel sample. Importantly, environment-altering actions were clustered in between periods of apparent inactivity, suggesting that problem-solvers were delicately balancing the execution of internal and external cognitive operations. We observed a systematic relationship between this critical phasic temporal signature and improved test performance. Our approach is widely applicable and offers an opportunity to quantitatively assess a powerful, although understudied, feature of human intelligence: our ability to use external objects, props and aids to solve complex problems.
  • Bosker, H. R., Van Os, M., Does, R., & Van Bergen, G. (2019). Counting 'uhm's: how tracking the distribution of native and non-native disfluencies influences online language comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 106, 189-202. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2019.02.006.

    Abstract

    Disfluencies, like 'uh', have been shown to help listeners anticipate reference to low-frequency words. The associative account of this 'disfluency bias' proposes that listeners learn to associate disfluency with low-frequency referents based on prior exposure to non-arbitrary disfluency distributions (i.e., greater probability of low-frequency words after disfluencies). However, there is limited evidence for listeners actually tracking disfluency distributions online. The present experiments are the first to show that adult listeners, exposed to a typical or more atypical disfluency distribution (i.e., hearing a talker unexpectedly say uh before high-frequency words), flexibly adjust their predictive strategies to the disfluency distribution at hand (e.g., learn to predict high-frequency referents after disfluency). However, when listeners were presented with the same atypical disfluency distribution but produced by a non-native speaker, no adjustment was observed. This suggests pragmatic inferences can modulate distributional learning, revealing the flexibility of, and constraints on, distributional learning in incremental language comprehension.
  • Burra, N., Hervais-Adelman, A., Celeghin, A., de Gelder, B., & Pegna, A. J. (2019). Affective blindsight relies on low spatial frequencies. Neuropsychologia, 128, 44-49. doi:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2017.10.009.

    Abstract

    The human brain can process facial expressions of emotions rapidly and without awareness. Several studies in patients with damage to their primary visual cortices have shown that they may be able to guess the emotional expression on a face despite their cortical blindness. This non-conscious processing, called affective blindsight, may arise through an intact subcortical visual route that leads from the superior colliculus to the pulvinar, and thence to the amygdala. This pathway is thought to process the crude visual information conveyed by the low spatial frequencies of the stimuli. In order to investigate whether this is the case, we studied a patient (TN) with bilateral cortical blindness and affective blindsight. An fMRI paradigm was performed in which fearful and neutral expressions were presented using faces that were either unfiltered, or filtered to remove high or low spatial frequencies. Unfiltered fearful faces produced right amygdala activation although the patient was unaware of the presence of the stimuli. More importantly, the low spatial frequency components of fearful faces continued to produce right amygdala activity while the high spatial frequency components did not. Our findings thus confirm that the visual information present in the low spatial frequencies is sufficient to produce affective blindsight, further suggesting that its existence could rely on the subcortical colliculo-pulvino-amygdalar pathway.
  • Fields, E. C., Weber, K., Stillerman, B., Delaney-Busch, N., & Kuperberg, G. (2019). Functional MRI reveals evidence of a self-positivity bias in the medial prefrontal cortex during the comprehension of social vignettes. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 14(6), 613-621. doi:10.1093/scan/nsz035.

    Abstract

    A large literature in social neuroscience has associated the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) with the processing of self-related information. However, only recently have social neuroscience studies begun to consider the large behavioral literature showing a strong self-positivity bias, and these studies have mostly focused on its correlates during self-related judgments and decision making. We carried out a functional MRI (fMRI) study to ask whether the mPFC would show effects of the self-positivity bias in a paradigm that probed participants’ self-concept without any requirement of explicit self-judgment. We presented social vignettes that were either self-relevant or non-self-relevant with a neutral, positive, or negative outcome described in the second sentence. In previous work using event-related potentials, this paradigm has shown evidence of a self-positivity bias that influences early stages of semantically processing incoming stimuli. In the present fMRI study, we found evidence for this bias within the mPFC: an interaction between self-relevance and valence, with only positive scenarios showing a self vs other effect within the mPFC. We suggest that the mPFC may play a role in maintaining a positively-biased self-concept and discuss the implications of these findings for the social neuroscience of the self and the role of the mPFC.

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  • Fitz, H., & Chang, F. (2019). Language ERPs reflect learning through prediction error propagation. Cognitive Psychology, 111, 15-52. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2019.03.002.

    Abstract

    Event-related potentials (ERPs) provide a window into how the brain is processing language. Here, we propose a theory that argues that ERPs such as the N400 and P600 arise as side effects of an error-based learning mechanism that explains linguistic adaptation and language learning. We instantiated this theory in a connectionist model that can simulate data from three studies on the N400 (amplitude modulation by expectancy, contextual constraint, and sentence position), five studies on the P600 (agreement, tense, word category, subcategorization and garden-path sentences), and a study on the semantic P600 in role reversal anomalies. Since ERPs are learning signals, this account explains adaptation of ERP amplitude to within-experiment frequency manipulations and the way ERP effects are shaped by word predictability in earlier sentences. Moreover, it predicts that ERPs can change over language development. The model provides an account of the sensitivity of ERPs to expectation mismatch, the relative timing of the N400 and P600, the semantic nature of the N400, the syntactic nature of the P600, and the fact that ERPs can change with experience. This approach suggests that comprehension ERPs are related to sentence production and language acquisition mechanisms
  • Franken, M. K., Acheson, D. J., McQueen, J. M., Hagoort, P., & Eisner, F. (2019). Consistency influences altered auditory feedback processing. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 72(10), 2371-2379. doi:10.1177/1747021819838939.

    Abstract

    Previous research on the effect of perturbed auditory feedback in speech production has focused on two types of responses. In the short term, speakers generate compensatory motor commands in response to unexpected perturbations. In the longer term, speakers adapt feedforward motor programmes in response to feedback perturbations, to avoid future errors. The current study investigated the relation between these two types of responses to altered auditory feedback. Specifically, it was hypothesised that consistency in previous feedback perturbations would influence whether speakers adapt their feedforward motor programmes. In an altered auditory feedback paradigm, formant perturbations were applied either across all trials (the consistent condition) or only to some trials, whereas the others remained unperturbed (the inconsistent condition). The results showed that speakers’ responses were affected by feedback consistency, with stronger speech changes in the consistent condition compared with the inconsistent condition. Current models of speech-motor control can explain this consistency effect. However, the data also suggest that compensation and adaptation are distinct processes, which are not in line with all current models.
  • Gao, Y., Zheng, L., Liu, X., Nichols, E. S., Zhang, M., Shang, L., Ding, G., Meng, Z., & Liu, L. (2019). First and second language reading difficulty among Chinese–English bilingual children: The prevalence and influences from demographic characteristics. Frontiers in Psychology, 10: 2544. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02544.

    Abstract

    Learning to read a second language (L2) can pose a great challenge for children who have already been struggling to read in their first language (L1). Moreover, it is not clear whether, to what extent, and under what circumstances L1 reading difficulty increases the risk of L2 reading difficulty. This study investigated Chinese (L1) and English (L2) reading skills in a large representative sample of 1,824 Chinese–English bilingual children in Grades 4 and 5 from both urban and rural schools in Beijing. We examined the prevalence of reading difficulty in Chinese only (poor Chinese readers, PC), English only (poor English readers, PE), and both Chinese and English (poor bilingual readers, PB) and calculated the co-occurrence, that is, the chances of becoming a poor reader in English given that the child was already a poor reader in Chinese. We then conducted a multinomial logistic regression analysis and compared the prevalence of PC, PE, and PB between children in Grade 4 versus Grade 5, in urban versus rural areas, and in boys versus girls. Results showed that compared to girls, boys demonstrated significantly higher risk of PC, PE, and PB. Meanwhile, compared to the 5th graders, the 4th graders demonstrated significantly higher risk of PC and PB. In addition, children enrolled in the urban schools were more likely to become better second language readers, thus leading to a concerning rural–urban gap in the prevalence of L2 reading difficulty. Finally, among these Chinese–English bilingual children, regardless of sex and school location, poor reading skill in Chinese significantly increased the risk of also being a poor English reader, with a considerable and stable co-occurrence of approximately 36%. In sum, this study suggests that despite striking differences between alphabetic and logographic writing systems, L1 reading difficulty still significantly increases the risk of L2 reading difficulty. This indicates the shared meta-linguistic skills in reading different writing systems and the importance of understanding the universality and the interdependent relationship of reading between different writing systems. Furthermore, the male disadvantage (in both L1 and L2) and the urban–rural gap (in L2) found in the prevalence of reading difficulty calls for special attention to disadvantaged populations in educational practice.

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