Parallel semantic processing in the flankers task: Evidence from the N400


  • Meade Gabriela
  • Declerck Mathieu
  • Holcomb Phillip J
  • Grainger Jonathan


  • Flankers task
  • Parallel processing
  • Semantics
  • N400

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The extent to which higher-order representations can be extracted from more than one word in parallel remains an unresolved issue with theoretical import. Here, we used ERPs to investigate the timing with which semantic information is extracted from parafoveal words. Participants saw animal and non-animal targets paired with response congruent or incongruent flankers in a semantic categorization task. Animal targets elicited smaller amplitude negativities when they were paired with semantically related and response congruent animal flankers (e.g., wolf coyote wolf) compared to unrelated and response incongruent flankers (e.g., sock coyote sock) in the N400 window and a post-N400 window. We interpret the N400 effect in terms of facilitated processing from the joint activation of shared semantic features (e.g., animal, furry) across target and flanker words and the later effect in terms of post-lexical decision-making. Thus, semantic information can be extracted from flankers in parallel and impacts various stages of processing.

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