Differentiating the N3 and N4 electrophysiological semantic incongruity effects

Joseph Dien, Gwen A. Frishkoff, Don M. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


An event-related potential termed the N4 has been widely studied due to its sensitivity to semantic incongruity. A recent report (Nobre and McCarthy, 1994) indicates there is also an N3 component that is sensitive to semantic incongruity. To differentiate these two components, an existing data set with 65 electrode sites, 78 subjects, and 120 sentences was examined. Instead of the usual procedure of averaging over the stimuli within distinct categories for each subject, a new approach - averaging over subjects - was employed. In this item average approach, 120 averages (one per sentence) were produced. Correlational analyses indicate that the N3 is equally sensitive to cloze probability and sentential constraint. The N4, by contrast, is more sensitive to sentential constraint and less to cloze probability; it is also correlated with familiarity. We interpret these results as evidence that the N3 is more responsive to semantic fit whereas the N4 is more responsive to semantic expectancy. (C) 2000 Academic Press.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-152
Number of pages5
JournalBrain and Cognition
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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