When people process language, they can use context to predict upcoming information,
influencing processing and comprehension as seen in both behavioral and neural
measures. Although numerous studies have shown immediate facilitative effects
of confirmed predictions, the downstream consequences of prediction have been
less explored. In the current study, we examined those consequences by probing
participants’ recognition memory for words after they read sets of sentences.
Participants read strongly and weakly constraining sentences with expected or
unexpected endings (“I added my name to the list/basket”), and later were tested on
their memory for the sentence endings while EEG was recorded. Critically, the memory
test contained words that were predictable (“list”) but were never read (participants
saw “basket”). Behaviorally, participants showed successful discrimination between old
and new items, but false alarmed to the expected-item lures more often than to new
items, showing that predicted words or concepts can linger, even when predictions
are disconfirmed. Although false alarm rates did not differ by constraint, event-related
potentials (ERPs) differed between false alarms to strongly and weakly predictable words.
Additionally, previously unexpected (compared to previously expected) endings that
appeared on the memory test elicited larger N1 and LPC amplitudes, suggesting greater
attention and episodic recollection. In contrast, highly predictable sentence endings that
had been read elicited reduced LPC amplitudes during the memory test. Thus, prediction
can facilitate processing in the moment, but can also lead to false memory and reduced
recollection for predictable information.