Format change and semantic relatedness effects on the ERP correlates of recognition: old pairs, new pairs, different stories


  • Guillaume Fabrice
  • Baier Sophia
  • Bourgeois Melanie
  • Tinard Sophie


  • Familiarity
  • ERP old/new effect
  • Mid-frontal N400 old/new effect
  • Parietal old/new effect
  • Perceptual matching
  • Semantic relatedness

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In this event-related potential (ERP) study, we investigated the effects of format change and semantic relatedness in a recognition task using pairs composed of a word and a line drawing. The semantic relatedness of the pairs (related: rabbit-carrot; unrelated: duck-artichoke) influenced their associative properties and corresponding distinctiveness, while format change refers to the switching of an item from the verbal form to the line drawing form between study and recognition (e.g., the word ``egg'' is associated with a drawing of a hen at study, and a line drawing of an egg is associated with the word ``hen'' at test). Study-test format change thus prevents visual matching while maintaining conceptual matching. While the N300 potential was only modulated by the semantic relatedness of the pair, both factors modulated recognition performance and corresponding ERP old/new effects with larger mid-frontal N400 old/new effect (300-500 ms) and larger parietal old/new effect (500-800 ms) in the same compared to the different-format condition, as well as for related compared to unrelated pairs. Furthermore, the semantic relatedness of correctly recognized old pairs modulated the anterior N400 while it modulated the posterior N400 for correctly rejected pairs. These results suggest that semantic relatedness and familiarity related to the amount of change between study and test present distinct ERP signatures in the N400 window. They suggest also that the distinctiveness and the ease of the retrieval of the pair could be determining for the parietal old/new effect.

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