How robust are prediction effects in language comprehension? Failure to replicate article-elicited N400 effects
Ito, A., Martin, A. E., & Nieuwland, M. S.
How robust are prediction effects in language comprehension? Failure to replicate article-elicited N400 effects. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 32
, 954-965. doi:10.1080/23273798.2016.1242761.
Current psycholinguistic theory proffers prediction as a central, explanatory mechanism in language
processing. However, widely-replicated prediction effects may not mean that prediction is
necessary in language processing. As a case in point, C. D. Martin et al. [2013. Bilinguals reading
in their second language do not predict upcoming words as native readers do.
Memory and Language, 69
588. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2013.08.001] reported ERP evidence for
prediction in native- but not in non-native speakers. Articles mismatching an expected noun
elicited larger negativity in the N400 time window compared to articles matching the expected
noun in native speakers only. We attempted to replicate these findings, but found no evidence
for prediction irrespective of language nativeness. We argue that pre-activation of phonological
form of upcoming nouns, as evidenced in article-elicited effects, may not be a robust
phenomenon. A view of prediction as a necessary computation in language comprehension
must be re-evaluated.