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Predictability's aftermath: Downstream consequences of word predictability as revealed by repetition effects

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Rommers, J., & Federmeier, K. D. (2018). Predictability's aftermath: Downstream consequences of word predictability as revealed by repetition effects. Cortex, 101, 16-30. doi:10.1016/j.cortex.2017.12.018.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0004-9B91-9
Stimulus processing in language and beyond is shaped by context, with predictability having a
particularly well-attested influence on the rapid processes that unfold during the presentation
of a word. But does predictability also have downstream consequences for the quality of the
constructed representations? On the one hand, the ease of processing predictablewordsmight
free up time or cognitive resources, allowing for relatively thorough processing of the input. On
the other hand, predictabilitymight allowthe systemto run in a top-down “verificationmode”,
at the expense of thorough stimulus processing. This electroencephalogram (EEG) study
manipulated word predictability, which reduced N400 amplitude and inter-trial phase clustering
(ITPC), and then probed the fate of the (un)predictable words in memory by presenting
them again. More thorough processing of predictable words should increase repetition effects,
whereas less thorough processing should decrease them. Repetition was reflected in N400 decreases,
late positive complex (LPC) enhancements, and late alpha/beta band power decreases.
Critically, prior predictability tended to reduce the repetition effect on the N400, suggesting less
priming, and eliminated the repetition effect on the LPC, suggesting a lack of episodic recollection.
These findings converge on a top-down verification account, on which the brain processes
more predictable input less thoroughly. More generally, the results demonstrate that
predictability hasmultifaceted downstreamconsequences beyond processing in the moment