Kevin Lam


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  • Lam, K. J. Y., Bastiaansen, M. C. M., Dijkstra, T., & Rueschemeyer, S. A. (2017). Making sense: motor activation and action plausibility during sentence processing. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32(5), 590-600. doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1164323.


    The current electroencephalography study investigated the relationship between the motor and (language) comprehension systems by simultaneously measuring mu and N400 effects. Specifically, we examined whether the pattern of motor activation elicited by verbs depends on the larger sentential context. A robust N400 congruence effect confirmed the contextual manipulation of action plausibility, a form of semantic congruency. Importantly, this study showed that: (1) Action verbs elicited more mu power decrease than non-action verbs when sentences described plausible actions. Action verbs thus elicited more motor activation than non-action verbs. (2) In contrast, when sentences described implausible actions, mu activity was present but the difference between the verb types was not observed. The increased processing associated with a larger N400 thus coincided with mu activity in sentences describing implausible actions. Altogether, context-dependent motor activation appears to play a functional role in deriving context-sensitive meaning
  • Lam, K. J. Y. (2016). Understanding action-related language: Sensorimotor contributions to meaning. PhD Thesis, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen.
  • Lam, K. J. Y., Dijkstra, T., & Rueschemeyer, S.-A. (2015). Feature activation during word recognition: action, visual, and associative-semantic priming effects. Frontiers in Psychology, 6: 659. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00659.


    Embodied theories of language postulate that language meaning is stored in modality-specific brain areas generally involved in perception and action in the real world. However, the temporal dynamics of the interaction between modality-specific information and lexical-semantic processing remain unclear. We investigated the relative timing at which two types of modality-specific information (action-based and visual-form information) contribute to lexical-semantic comprehension. To this end, we applied a behavioral priming paradigm in which prime and target words were related with respect to (1) action features, (2) visual features, or (3) semantically associative information. Using a Go/No-Go lexical decision task, priming effects were measured across four different inter-stimulus intervals (ISI = 100, 250, 400, and 1000 ms) to determine the relative time course of the different features. Notably, action priming effects were found in ISIs of 100, 250, and 1000 ms whereas a visual priming effect was seen only in the ISI of 1000 ms. Importantly, our data suggest that features follow different time courses of activation during word recognition. In this regard, feature activation is dynamic, measurable in specific time windows but not in others. Thus the current study (1) demonstrates how multiple ISIs can be used within an experiment to help chart the time course of feature activation and (2) provides new evidence for embodied theories of language.
  • Lam, K. J. Y., & Dijkstra, T. (2010). Word repetition, masked orthographic priming, and language switching: Bilingual studies and BIA+ simulations. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 13, 487-503. doi:10.1080/13670050.2010.488283.


    Daily conversations contain many repetitions of identical and similar word forms. For bilinguals, the words can even come from the same or different languages. How do such repetitions affect the human word recognition system? The Bilingual Interactive Activation Plus (BIA+) model provides a theoretical and computational framework for understanding word recognition and word repetition in bilinguals. The model assumes that both phenomena involve a language non-selective process that is sensitive to the task context. By means of computer simulations, the model can specify both qualitatively and quantitatively how bilingual lexical processing in one language is affected by the other language. Our review discusses how BIA+ handles cross-linguistic repetition and masked orthographic priming data from two key empirical studies. We show that BIA+ can account for repetition priming effects within- and between-languages through the manipulation of resting-level activations of targets and neighbors (words sharing all but one letter with the target). The model also predicts cross-linguistic performance on within- and between-trial orthographic priming without appealing to conscious strategies or task schema competition as an explanation. At the end of the paper, we briefly evaluate the model and indicate future developments.

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