Louisa Kulke, Mareike Bayer, Anna-Maria Grimm, and Annekathrin Schacht (2018)

Differential effects of learned associations with words and pseudowords on event-related brain potentials

Preprint.

Associated stimulus valence affects neural responses at an early processing stage. However, in the field of written language processing, it is unclear whether semantics of a word or low-level visual features affect early neural processing advantages. The current study aimed to investigate the role of semantic content on valence association. Participants completed a learning session to associate either words (Experiment 1, N=24) or pseudowords (Experiment 2, N=24) with a certain valence (gain-associated, neutral or loss-associated). Behavioural and neural response changes based on the associated valence were investigated in a separate test session. Gain-associated stimuli were learned fastest. Response times were faster towards gain- and loss-associated than neutral stimuli if they were words, but not pseudowords. Early P1 effects of associated valence occurred for both pseudowords and words. Specifically, loss-associated valence resulted in increased P1 amplitudes to pseudowords, compared to decreased amplitudes to words. Although visual features are likely to explain P1 effects for pseudowords, the inversed effect for words suggests that semantic content affects associative learning, potentially leading to stronger valence associations.

open access article

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