Interactions in the neighborhood: Effects of orthographic and phonological neighbors on N400 amplitude


  • Carrasco-Ortiz Haydee
  • Midgley Katherine J.
  • Grainger Jonathan
  • Holcomb Phillip J.

Document type

Journal articles


The present study investigated effects of phonological and orthographic neighborhood density on event-related potentials, with an aim to better specify the factors that determine N400 amplitude in single word reading paradigms. We orthogonally manipulated the number of orthographic and phonological neighbors of words using the Levenshtein Distance metric (OLD20 and PLD20, respectively). The results showed opposite effects of phonological neighborhood density (PND) as a function of orthographic neighborhood density (OND). Larger N400 amplitudes were elicited by words with high PND compared with low PND when OND was high, and smaller N400 amplitudes were observed with high PND compared with low PND words when OND was low. We interpret these findings using the notion of cross-code consistency, according to which the compatibility of orthographic and phonological representations activated by a given word influences the process of recognizing that word. Words with similar numbers of orthographic and phonological neighbors have more consistent spellings and pronunciations across the neighborhood, and generate larger N400 amplitudes. (C) 2016 Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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